Bob the Asshole, my old landlord, kept my security deposit.
This is the Part 2 followup to my original question
. I'll summarize:
- I had rented an apartment from Joe the Friendly Landlord. I signed a lease agreement with Joe the Friendly Landlord and paid him a security deposit.
- Joe the Friendly Landlord sold the building to Bob the Asshole (not his real name, heh). Bob the Asshole eventually distributed new lease agreements, but I never signed one. I don't think Bob the Asshole knows that I never signed it.
- I moved out, left the place in the same shape it was when I moved in, and Bob the Asshole kept my security deposit, roughly $1000.
His assistant told me, over the phone, that he's keeping the security deposit to cover three items:
For reference, here's a representative list of things a landlord can withhold for.
- Carpet needed replacing -- Indeed it did. It did before I moved in, as the previous owner had dogs. I actually complained about the spotted carpet several times. (Nothing in writing, though. grrr...)
- Apartment needed repainting -- Nothing beyond normal wear and tear; the paint was cracked and generally lousy when I moved in.
- Ceiling needed repair due to water damage from a roof that leaked during an ice storm. Water damage due to a leaky roof is not my responsibility. I asked Bob the Asshole twice to fix it. (But again, nothing in writing.)
Unfortunately, I have no photographs or anything to document the apartment's original condition, and neither does Bob the Asshole. I know this because I had the only key to the deadbolt. But I do have a witness (former neighbor) that would probably be willing to testify on my behalf.
Essentially, Bob the Asshole remodeled the apartment at my expense.
So... As much as I hate legal bullshit, I'm thinking it's small claims court time.
South Carolina rent law
says the following (emphasis mine):
When you move out in South Carolina, you should give the landlord a forwarding address. The landlord then has 30 days to either return your security deposit or provide a written explanation of the amount withheld.Here are my questions:
(a) Upon termination of the tenancy, property or money held by the South Carolina landlord as security must be returned less amounts withheld by the landlord for accrued rent and damages which the landlord has suffered by reason of the tenant's noncompliance with Section 27-40-510. Any deduction from the security/rental deposit must be itemized by the landlord in a written notice to the tenant together with the amount due, if any, within thirty days after termination of the tenancy and delivery of possession and demand by the tenant, whichever is later. The tenant shall provide the landlord in writing with a forwarding address or new address to which the written notice and amount due from the landlord may be sent. If the tenant fails to provide the landlord with the forwarding or new address, the tenant is not entitled to damages under this subsection provided the landlord (1) had no notice of the tenant's whereabouts and (2) mailed the written notice and amount due, if any, to the tenant's last known address.
(b) If the landlord fails to return to the tenant any prepaid rent or security/rental deposit with the notice required to be sent by the landlord pursuant to subsection (a), the tenant may recover the property and money in an amount equal to three times the amount wrongfully withheld and reasonable attorney's fees.
- I never received any written itemized list of damages to the property, but I only gave my address over the phone (twice) when I requested the written list. I continued to check my old mailbox at the old apartment, and nothing was delivered there either. It's way past the 30 day point, but since I supplied nothing in writing, they may be able to claim they didn't have my forwarding address, which I'm thinking (?) may preclude me from collecting damages. (Here's an idea: Even though it's about 90 days after I've moved out, I could still send a certified letter requesting the itemized list. If they don't respond to that within 30 days, I've got Bob the Asshole by the short hairs...)I have no signed lease agreement with Bob the Asshole, although I do have a copy of the signed lease agreement with Joe the Friendly Landlord and a copy of the UNsigned lease agreement with Bob the Asshole. But, again, I believe that Bob the Asshole thinks I signed it. Should I bring this up? Does this mean that we have no legal agreement between us and I should just walk away? I imagine that the judge will ask for the signed lease agreement and I'm not sure how to answer.Should I just threaten to sue, hoping that Bob the Asshole will pay up? If the lack of signed lease is an insurmountable obstacle, this may be my only real option.
- Should I just hire a lawyer? (Or is this too small-potatoes for a lawyer to deal with?)
Sorry this is so long, but there's my saga. Let it be a lesson to all tenants -- MAKE ALL YOUR CORRESPONDENCE TO YOUR LANDLORD IN WRITING. In retrospect, yeah, I should have just not paid the last month's rent... (And, yes, I enjoy typing "Bob the Asshole"!)