Is my landlord allowed to fine me for graffiti on the outside of the apartment complex near my unit?

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Is my landlord allowed to fine me for graffiti on the outside of the apartment complex near my unit?

There was some graffiti drawn on the outside of my apartment complex and my landlord has fined me for it. I have no idea who did it and there was more graffiti done around the same time on the other side of the complex and she didn’t fine anyone for that. Is what she is doing legal?

Asked on October 6, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

IF you (or someone under your control--a child; a child's friend who was your guest; some other family member; etc.) drew the graffiti, then the landlord could seek to recover the cost of cleaning it up; in this case, though, to get the money (if you did not pay it voluntarily), the landlord would either have to sue you (and prove your responsibility) or possibly take it  from your security deposit at the end of your tenancy (in which case, you'd have the chance to seek its return, if you disagreed).

Or if there is anything in your lease--which is, after all, a contract--which states that you would have to pay for graffiti under certain circumstances AND those circumstances occured, she could fine you.

However, unless she can either show you did the damage (and seek to collect as she could for any damage a tenant does) or has some contractual term allowing her to fine or charge you, she cannot simply decide on her own to impose a fine.


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