Can a landlord charge a tenant excessive amounts upon their terminating the lease?

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Can a landlord charge a tenant excessive amounts upon their terminating the lease?

Landlord terminated lease since they are now selling house. They got an itemized list of charges – lawn mowing and resoding (from dog damage they say), replacing a back door (that they say has dog claw marks on glass), patching anchor holes in the walls, painting were decals were on the walls, painting stairs facial board, replacing a broken gutter. Seems like they are trying to get us for everything plus some. Can they charge us for this? How do we fight these charges?

Asked on April 11, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Alabama

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

1) A tenant may be charged for *all* damage that they, their family, guests, or pets did. These amounts may be taken out of a security deposit and/or the tenant may be sued.

So, assuming what the landlord said is true for the moment, the dog related damage, painting over decals you put on walls, patching any holes you put in the wall, etc. are things you could be charged for.

2) You can't be charged for routine maintenance, wear-and-tear, or damage done by causes or persons beyond your control. So for example, freshening up paint (if not required by something you did) or replacing a gutter that you did not personally break are things you can't be charged for.

3) You can only be charged the actual repair cost, and also you must be charged only "reasonable costs"--i.e. not padding the bill.

4) If you dispute that some damage was done by you, or you dispute the amount of the charges, you can i) try to resolve it with the landlord--go over bills, receipts, etc. with him; or ii) refuse to pay and make him sue you for the money--or, if he's held onto your security deposit, sue him for its return.


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