After being charged a ridiculous amount for a paint job, what is my next move?

I lived for months in a tiny studio apartment infested with ants and mold which I have pictures. I tried multiple times to get in contact with the property manager with no response. I did a walk-through and have a copy of it that says minimal damage. Then when I got the overview of where my $400 damage deposit went; there was a $332 charge for a paint job. After 2 weeks of trying to contact the property manager again, she told me the balance won’t change so I can just take her to court.

Asked on November 2, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The property manager is correct: your recourse at this time is to sue the landlord for the security deposit. You can only be charged for painting the extent you (or your family, pets, guests) damaged the paint--such as by a child drawing on it in permanent marker, or scratching it up while moving furniture; or by painting it a different color without landlord approval to do so; etc. You are not liable for repainting due to simple wear and tear or age, or to freshen it up for the next tenant. And to the extent that you are liable for repainting, you are liable only for the reasonable cost of hiring someone one to paint, IF an outside contractor is hired to paint. (If the landlord or super, etc.  did the work, they could only charge you for the cost of the paint itself.)

If you dispute either your obligation to pay or the amount you have to pay and can't work it out with the landlord or property manager, then you need to sue for the deposit's return. You can sue in small claims court, where you can act as your own attorney, to keep costs down. Good luck.

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