Bogus Damage Charges from a Corporate Landlord DC Edition
August 26, 2014 7:08 PM Subscribe
Several roommates and I moved out of an apartment in DC this summer that is owned by a large corporate company (coughAvalonBaycough). We’d been in the apartment for almost four years. Before we moved out, staff from the building signed off on paperwork stating that there was no visible damage.
A month later we get an incredibly bogus set of damage charges from the building for nearly $1,000. We already got our security deposit back, but they’re threatening to send us to collections over these new charges.
posted by forkisbetter to Law & Government (8 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You Are Not My Lawyer and no suggestions will be taken as legal advice, but…
The staff that actually works in our building (who signed off on our walk through) thinks we’re being fleeced, but all billing goes through an anonymous call center that’s taken a page out of the Comcast employee manual.
The only advice we’ve received is to pay up and head to small claims court. That wouldn’t be the end of the world, but the charges are so bogus as to be potentially just plain fraud (maybe?). Any suggestions for how to handle this so we don’t have to go to court?
For example, we were charged $250 for “wall damage” in addition to the $500 “other” charge without invoices. My understanding is that municipal law in DC requires all damage charges to include an actual invoice, so we requested the invoices. After an additional 6 weeks we were just given some very vague receipts from the building, not copies of the original invoices, which did not include a breakdown of charges by labor or materials.
The supposed “wall damage” invoice did not include a single charge for $250. There was no wall damage, so that’s not surprising. No one over at the corporate call center could tell us what the $250 was supposed to be for. Much like that infamous Comcast call, they just keep repeating the same script over and over even when it makes no sense.
The $500 “other” charge was for re-finishing the vinyl coating on the wood floors of the entire unit. There was no floor damage at all, not even normal wear and tear. The building alleges one corner of one room had light scuffs, which I would say is bogus, but admittedly we don’t have photos of that specific corner of the floor to prove there wasn't damage. I would say that if they were just charging us for that room, that would be within reason, but the whole apartment?
We have photos from when we moved out in addition to our signed walk-through saying that there was no damage, and at least the $250 charge seems to be completely bogus. In which case, is that just blatant fraud?
I’m also concerned about their company policy of not having any dispute process of any kind. After hours of trying to talk to the call center reps, we were randomly sent to collections today despite being told in writing that the dispute was “being reviewed.”
Calling them only leads to talking to call center reps who repeat the same script over and over and over. Today we finally talked to a manager after being hung up on a couple of times. The manager said he would knock 10% off the total, but only if we pay up today- which we declined.
The DC Office of the Tenant Advocate wasn't super helpful. They said that we'd probably have a good case in small claims court, but the person I talked to didn't seem to know any details about the municipal law regarding damages that aren't taken out of a security deposit.
Any strategies on how to try to get through to the powers that be at corporate headquarters to get them to drop these charges?