Bastard Landlord steals security depsoit (with many twists involved): What to do?
August 22, 2006 1:25 PM Subscribe
Landlord Filter: So I'm suing my landlord, help me get my gameplan/choice of action together before I meet a lawyer...
posted by stratastar to Law & Government (36 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Me and two friends of mine lived in a College Park, MD off-campus apartment. The apartment building is not centeralized, each individual apt. is owned by seperate/various landlords. My landlord required a 2 months deposit for the place (came down to $1200 a piece, or $3600 total).
We payed the deposit and payed each month in full(albeit a few months were late at times, if not extremely late). He warned us that we needed to get the money in quicker, but never anything in writing. He was pretty lackidasical--more on that later).
We moved out at the end of our lease, July 1st 2006. The apartment was pretty messy, but not damaged. We had accrued nearly $900 worth of noise violation fines from the centeralized building (we had a LOT of parties). Not having the funds to pay for such, we asked our landlord to take it off our deposit (the apt. building's policy takes the fine to the landlord if the tennants don't make with the loot).
Anyways, we tried cleaning the place (it was rEALLLY messy, we lived like slobs). We worked for 2 days before our lease was out, but the chicks who moved in weren't happy with the condition (how dare they!). Aparently my landlord hired a cleaning crew one day and it was resolved.
We gave our keys directly to the new tennants because our landlord never stepped a foot in the building for the last 9 months (he lives in New Jersey, we are in College Park, MD). We called him repeatedly about our deposits, expecting aprox 2500 of the 3600 back (-900 for fines, 200ish for cleaning). He never responded.
We called him repeatedly for over a month. Finally we sent a letter FEDEX'd with sign verification, requesting to speak to him or else we would pursuit legal action. A month later (which comes to aprox. 70 days after the end of our lease), he finally sends us checks for $400 each (totally $1200), probably because of the threat of legal action in the letter. We found the sum totally unacceptable.
Researching Prince George's County law on security deposits, apparently the landlord must file any complaint on a deduction for the security deposit within 30 days. If he does not do anything within 45 days, you are granted the right to sue for the entire amount plus up to 3 times compensatory damages.
My roomates, who are very broke, want to sue for the maximum (which would be $10800, or 3x3600). We lost our copy of the lease, which could be problematic, but we do have copies of the checks we made out to him at the begining of the lease, showing the $3600 collectively up front.
Is it worth suing him, if we have to inccur legal fees? How can we get out of legal fees (free public defenders perhaps) ? Is it ethical to sue for so much, when in fact, we owe aprox $1000 dollars collectively via the fines/cleaning?
P.S. our landlord is a bastard so there is a sense of vindication; he never fixed anything in our place, we had to do it ourselves (and we didn't complain-- we're like cockroaches; we adapted). We did not damage the place and we payed way too mcuh for the going rate in the area.
We have a meeting with a lawyer on Thursday, but the lawyer smells expensive ($250 an hour) and I'm not sure if she will give us a completely unbiased opinion.
Should we try to squeeze as much as possible? Is it a viable option? Should we settle for the $400 and just find his address and impugn our own revenge (just kidding)?