How to handle a greedy landlord?
December 17, 2010 11:16 AM   Subscribe

Interested in tenant rights: NYC landlord is asking for more money (additional $1000) than security+pet deposit ($2,400)??

Dear Mefites,

Here is the summary of my concern:

I have moved out of my NY apartment to another state about a month ago.
I was at that apartment for 1 year and 3 months (last three months I was a month-to-month tenant). I have two dogs. At lease signing a year ago, I have deposited one month rent (1,400)+pet security deposit(1000). Apartment was in great condition as was noted in the Checklist prior to move in.

Dogs did damange to the front door (scratched the white paint off). The a small patch of hardwood floor in the bedroom was damaged by my bed metal springs). One of the rooms had wall-to-wall carpet, and while there were no stains on it, there I did not care enough to clean up thoroughly when I was moving out.

Bottom line: a month after I moved out, the landlord sent an envelope with pictures of "damages", mostly writing "filthy" next to carpet/oven/kitchen. Noting the damage to door he mentioned "pet deposit" and the hardwood floors in the bedroom. He does not attach any price estimate from contractors, merely scribbles "You owe me 1 grand on top of 2,400". While I am all up for fairness in these disputes, I am not sure how there are over 3,000 dollars in damages without any cost explanation?

I am not sure what the best way to approach this. I am no longer living in New York. Any legal advice on how to proceed with this, people who have dealt with similar situations, all is appreciated.

Thank you all.
posted by mooselini to Law & Government (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you didn't expect to get the deposit back, why can't you just ignore it?
posted by booknerd at 11:22 AM on December 17, 2010

Response by poster: Booknerd, as I mentioned, I am not sure, legally, what my options are. If I ignore him, is he going to sue me and then charge me for his legal fees? How do I dispute the charges without a lawyer and given that I am not longer living in the city, handle the "small claims court"?
posted by mooselini at 11:24 AM on December 17, 2010

Demand estimates from a floor company and a painter on their letterheads. Landlords expect tenants to leave their place broom clean when they leave.

I had an issue with a landlord in Denver who trashed the place and tried to claim I did it after I left....but I had anticipated this, hired a cleaning service, took pictures and had witnesses to vouch for me. I did need to get a lawyer and sent copies of the receipts and pictures to him.

IANAL, but I think that if your deposits cover the cost of the estimates, you'll be in the clear.
posted by brujita at 11:35 AM on December 17, 2010

Read your old lease - most likely it excludes normal wear and tear and requires you to leave the apartment "broom clean" but no more than that - it does not need to be spotless. Basically you've got a scumbag landlord trying to scare you. Ask him for an intemized bill. Dispute the wood scratches as normal wear and tear. Even moderate stains on the rug are normal wear and tear.

No way is repainting a door $2400 dollars. My guess is after you object he clams up, hoping you'll write the $2400 off rather than forcing him to prove the damages.
posted by JPD at 11:36 AM on December 17, 2010

Best answer: Send a letter to your old landlord, certified mail, saying the following:

"Dear Landlord,

Pursuant to New York law, you are required to return my security deposits to me, less the actual cost of repairing damages above and beyond normal wear and tear to the unit. In order to deduct any amount from my security deposit, much less charge any more for cleaning and repair of the unit, you must itemize the costs of the cleaning and send me an itemized quote or bill from the vendor.

This means that you must either get a written quote for cleaning and repair and send it to me before you are permitted to keep any amount of my security deposits.

You must also provide interest on my security deposits of 2.5%, pursuant to law. You are permitted to keep 1% of my security deposit as an administrative fee, as allowed by law. This means that unless you provide a written estimate of repairs and cleaning within 30 days, you must return to me $2,436.

This is no small sum of money, and as you can imagine, I am committed to getting it back. If you do not return it to me, I will seek remedy with the New York State Attorney General, by submitting a Rent Security Complaint Form, readily available on the State Attorney's website. Surely you know that the State Attorney's office takes these complaints seriously and resolves them speedily in favor of the tenant.

Please send me my security deposits in 30 days, or I will not hesitate to seek legal remedy.


You can find that complaint letter HERE.
posted by juniperesque at 12:21 PM on December 17, 2010 [21 favorites]

Response by poster: Juniperesque, thank you for this. My next step will be getting the itemized quote from the landlord.

However, in the case that his vendor will be a friend of his (landlord works in constructions), and his price estimate will be over 3,000 dollars (well about the secutiry+pet deposit), am I legally required to cover it?

Another thought was to hire a contractor on my own to get a more reasonable quote -- in this case, is the landlord free to decline the price estimate that my contractor will give?

Thank you once more.
posted by mooselini at 12:43 PM on December 17, 2010

1. As stated above, is this damage wear and tear or legitimate damage?
2. If it is legitimate damage, get your own estimates.

Just because the LL claims the damage is $3,400 doesn't make it so. Even if he has estimates.

Take the photos of the damages, call a couple of local handymen, and ask them to provide estimates of repair.

Then take your old LL to court, and sue him.

Your old LL is jerking you around because he thinks he can. The frustration is that the most he'll have to pay out is your deposits, and not any additional punitive amount for being an ass. may be a helpful resource as well here.
posted by swngnmonk at 2:02 PM on December 17, 2010

@swngnmonk: Alas, the OP is in a different state entirely as the landlord at this time. Taking photos and getting local estimates isn't possible for him.

It's not necessary to "take the landlord to court" by suing them. Suing someone is a civil action, and rulings are up for debate and can cost the OP to file, retain counsel, etc. The OP's issue is a legal one. Let Andrew Cuomo do that and assume the costs, and use the correct form from the State Attorney's website, which is just for this purpose.
posted by juniperesque at 2:32 PM on December 17, 2010

You must also provide interest on my security deposits of 2.5%, pursuant to law. You are permitted to keep 1% of my security deposit as an administrative fee, as allowed by law.

I'm in NYC and have got mixed signals on that. I understood it to be the case, but just recently saw something that said it only pertained if there were six or more units.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:58 AM on December 18, 2010

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