How to recover money from my landlord after they failed to live up to an oral agreement?
February 21, 2011 4:07 PM   Subscribe

After months of pestering our landlord about cracked walls (from foundation shifts), we reached an oral agreement that as compensation, I would not be required to pay for the last two weeks of rent. After moving out, they sent me an itemized bill for those two weeks of rent, and deducted it from my security deposit (bringing our recovered deposit to essentially nil). What are my options?

Other information:

- This happened in Texas

- The landlord is a large investment/real estate company that runs several apartment complexes. The person that the agreement was reached with is a regional manager.

- I've done some searching, but I'm having trouble finding good advice online, because this is a somewhat odd situation.

- I now regret not getting the agreement in writing, but there's nothing I can do about it now. The person with whom I made the agreement has been ignoring my calls, but her underlings at the rental company told us that "she has no recollection" of the agreement.

- Is there a way to credibly file, or at least threaten, a lawsuit that won't require me to actually be in Texas? The several hundred dollars that it would take me to return would pretty much wipe out the money that I was supposed to get back.

Oh, and before anyone suggests it, we are certainly going to write up our experience on the internet, leave negative reviews, and contact the BBB. My first concern, though, is getting the money back, if possible.
posted by chrisamiller to Law & Government (7 answers total)
Best answer: First step, I'd say (from my experience as a screwed-over tenant) is to write the management company and let them know about their error. Sent it certified. In Texas, withholding the security deposit (wrongly) can get you up to 3x the deposit (but most judges just award the amount they owe you plus costs, from what I've been told).
Give them a chance to be made aware of the mistake and clear it up before you start threatening legal action.
posted by elpea at 4:16 PM on February 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

*certified, return receipt requested. This way they have to sign for it, and you get the signature card.
posted by elpea at 4:16 PM on February 21, 2011

(Not fully understanding... What was on the itemised bill for the last two weeks? Presumably not the damage caused by subsidence, but other "damages" that can more easily be pinned on you? Or did they simply renege on the verbal agreement to waive two weeks' rent?)
posted by 4eyes at 4:18 PM on February 21, 2011

Response by poster: To clarify, 4eyes, the itemized bill listed no damages to the apartment (and actually said that the damages were normal wear and tear and non-billable). It did, however, show that we had not paid for our last two weeks and billed us accordingly for rent, water, and trash.
posted by chrisamiller at 4:26 PM on February 21, 2011

Best answer: There are no verbal agreements in real estate. That said, I would take elpea's advice and send a certified letter, return receipt requested. Be sure to include who you made the agreement with, the date and include pictures.
posted by shoesietart at 4:32 PM on February 21, 2011

Ah, in which case: bugger. I shouldn't really have asked, as I'm in the UK and of no help to you. Here, verbal contract are often binding, but not when it comes to tenancy agreements - is that the case in Texas? Outside of your ongoing dispute with the landlord, perhaps there local newspapers with "consumer champions" that might take up your cause? Even the letters pages might help you strike up a useful partnership with someone similarly abused. Whatever you do, best of luck - hope it works in your favour.
posted by 4eyes at 4:41 PM on February 21, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks guys. We'll start with a firm and polite certified letter and see where that gets us.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:00 PM on February 21, 2011

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