How to get back a damage deposit from a landlord?

UPDATED: May 29, 2011

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How to get back a damage deposit from a landlord?

Our daughter, a college student, rented a home with a friend/other college students. Their lease is up and the landlord is stating that he is holding their deposit for painting. However the interior was not painted when they moved in. On the walk-through the landlord verbally stated, in front of students/parents, that they could do anything to the home except burn it down. In fact, they specifically asked if they could paint, and they were verbally told yes they could (although the lease states that such permission needs to be in writing). Consequently 3 rooms were painted without written consent (students had issues with landlord for bathrooms, leaking pipes, washing machine, dishwasher, lawn mowing, windows, etc – which were all landlords responsibilities). The landlord would also come into home without a 2 day notice which was stated in lease. Would it be smart to go to small claims court?

Asked on May 29, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, a landlord may not charge for the typical, end-of-rental painting done to freshen the premises up for the next renter(s). However, if there was a term in the contract stating that *written* permission was needed in order for the tenants to paint and such permission was not obtained, then the landlord can probably charge to re-paint the premises. Even if oral or verbal permission was given, it was probably not enough if there was a term in the lease specificallly requiring written permission. While it may be an understandable and  innocent mistake, your dought and friends violated the lease, which would seemingly give the landlord the right to charge them. Any other issues with the landlord would probably not affect the landlord's right to charge.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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