What do I do if my landlord kept all of my deposit bevause he charged for 9 hours of painting for normal wear and tear?

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What do I do if my landlord kept all of my deposit bevause he charged for 9 hours of painting for normal wear and tear?

He also overcharged me for late fees according to the lease agreement. He sent the letter over 20 days after I moved out and the letter stated, “This is an accounting of the security deposit you had with us at unit……”. The address he stated we rented was an incorrect address. Do I take him to small claim to get my deposit back?

Asked on April 23, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

Kenneth Berger / Kenneth A. Berger, Attorney at Law

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

In Washington State you can take him to small claims court to try and get the money back, but, you may give up a claim for attorney's fees and/or damages later under the Residential Landlord Tenant Act later.  Let me explain.

The RLTA allows for attorney's fees and in some cases double damages when a landlord wrongfully withholds a tenant's deposit or withholds without the proper 14 day notice. If you loose in small claims court and then choose to use an attorney to appeal the decision to superior court, the superior court will probably not have to "follow the law" under RLTA; the reason is because you chose the small claims forum and small claims is about fast equitable justice, not legal stautes, rules and procedures. 

So, my suggestion is to decide how much you really want to chase this deposit.  If you really care about it, what happened to you, and sending the landlord a message, consider hiring an attorney and pursuing the matter in superior court under the RLTA rules.

As always, my comments are only applicable to Washington State and are not a substitute for getting competent, local, and more comprehensive, legal help.

 

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, small claims court is the avenue that you need to take to fight what you consider to be an incorrect holding of your security deposit and to dispute the accounting.  Double check with a tenant's rights agency as to what normal wear and tear is in your area and what other deductions can and can not be made.  Sometimes the state attorney general's website has the info too.  Good luck. 


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