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Tenant claims I have no right to use pet deposit to clean…

Customer Question
Tenant claims I have...

Tenant claims I have no right to use pet deposit to clean house after her departure. Claims Georgia Code O.C.G.A. 44-7-30 through 44-7-36.

Lawyer's Assistant: What steps have you taken so far? Have you prepared or filed any paperwork?

No. No legal action from either side so far. Just a warning letter from her.

Lawyer's Assistant: Have you talked to a Georgia lawyer about this?

I have not. It is only 600.00$

Lawyer's Assistant: Anything else you want the lawyer to know before I connect you?

I was not in town on the day of her departure. Later house had odor of dog and I had it professionally deodorized and cleaned. I have all receipts of these actions.

Submitted: 5 months ago.Category: Real Estate Law
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Answered in 2 minutes by:
3/14/2018
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago
Legal Eagle
Legal Eagle, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 14,198
Experience: Licensed to practice before state and federal court
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Hello! I am a licensed attorney, admitted to practice in state and federal court. I have a nearly 100% satisfaction rating (click here for more info) so all that means is that you can count on me to help today. Because I want to provide you with the most accurate answer possible, do you mind if I take a moment to review your question?

Please keep in mind that our conversation does not include an attorney-client relationship and this is for general information purposes only.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
I understand.
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago

Great, thank you! The system may automatically ask you for a phone call; however, it’s not required that you take it. Bear with me a moment while I review…

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Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago

Thanks so much for your patience. Ok, so based on what I can see, I can't see anything that says that you can't use a pet deposit to clean the house after the departure. I reviewed the code and that seems unusual that the law would even say that. Did you plan on using the pet deposit for something other than what the pet did?

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
No. All funds went toward cleaning.
She states I have only 3 days to walk through and make these cleaning decisions or deposit may not be held.
Our lease agreement gives me 30 days.
She says these statutes override our agreement.
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago

I see. So, in the state of Georgia, a landlord has three days after a tenant terminates occupancy to inspect the unit for damages and provide the tenant with a list of things that they are going to be charged for.

The list must then be furnished to you within five business days from termination of the occupancy to hand in the charges to the tenant.

In your case, if there was an agreement to the contrary, then the sad part is that the law does override the lease. The reason is because a court will look at a lease agreement and make any portion of the lease that is against the law unenforceable. So, the rest of the lease was probably enforceable, but that section would not be.

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Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago

I don't know if this is something I would risk. If you want to avoid giving back all of the money from the deposit, you may need to go another route.

One little known, but very effective tool that lawyers use when there isn’t a law that they can rely on to support their position is called principled negotiation. All this means is that you are looking to get something done on the basis of principles, even if you can’t find a law to support you. It takes the anxiety out of dealing with the other side because you’re focused on the facts, not each other.

Here are some simple steps you can follow:

  1. Figure out what the other side’s interests are (saving money, saving time, etc.?);

  2. Think about what your interests are (saving money, saving time, etc.?);

  3. Come up with 2 to 3 reasonable and objective ways to solve the problem;

  4. Present it to the other side;

  5. If the other side rejects, ask them, “Is there a reason why you do not feel it is necessary to negotiate?”

Of course, these are just building blocks to get the other party to help solve the dispute. Believe me when I say that good lawyers use this technique all the time to keep things out of court. You’ll find that it is very effective even with the most stubborn of individuals.

What other questions did you have for me regarding this?

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Problem is that tenant sprays heavy fabreeze or similar and odors are hidden for more than three days.
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago

I understand. But the problem is that if you didn't follow GA's law on these things, then if she were to go to court, a judge would probably award her the $ because the law requires that you inspect it within three days after they leave. It stinks and I'm sorry; however, the law requires this.

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Good morning,
I hope our line is still open. We did do the walk through and I had no problem with any physical damage. We agreed on that.
After the house was closed for a week the pet aroma was quite apparent and at that time decided professional enzyme treatment was necessary. On initial meeting carpet fresh and vacuuming will mask that for several days.
There must be exceptions for the three day payment situation.Thomas
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago

I see what you mean. So, if you did the walk through within the three-day period, but you later found the issues with the pets after the fact, then the law would allow you to keep the deposit. There's nothing in the GA code that says that issues found after the fact cannot be deducted from the deposit. So long as you have some reasonable proof of doing so (e.g. if you had professional cleaners verify that this was the case, photos, videos, etc.) then you'll be fine.

Did you have any other questions for me today that I could help you with?

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Customer reply replied 5 months ago
Well this is my only issue right now. That is the thing about the leasing property/landlord position. It is subjective and I am required to make these decisions. I can't have a prospective client enter the premises for the first time and immediately say
"There was a dog (or dogs in this case) living in this house." Many are allergic and most of us just don't want that aroma around.
I just cannot believe that in Georgia the law has been written so that a tenant's pet deposit is untouchable if they can hide something for three days.
Real Estate Lawyer: Legal Eagle, Lawyer replied 5 months ago

I can understand your concern with this; however, in the interests of justice, I have reason to believe that if the tenant was hiding some defect from you like that, a court would likely not award the pet deposit back to the tenant.

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