Los Angeles rental (mis)management
August 8, 2011 1:43 PM   Subscribe

Inept Los Angeles apartment management accounting, part 2: they now claim the $26 we owe them is from January 2010. My new question is: is it even legit that they are making this claim after 1.5 years? Is there a time limit?

We paid rent with 2 checks and one of the accounts has been long since closed, so checking to make sure they got the money is slightly complicated (though not impossible, obviously and I will double check that once I get home). We started a year lease in December 2009 and went month to month after that. At this point all I can come up with is that they miscalculated how much we owed for December 2009 (since it wasn't a full month) and are just now noticing it. If we genuinely owe money, we'll pay it, but I'm little wary given how poorly they've handled this so far.
posted by mandymanwasregistered to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Response by poster: (previously)
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 2:17 PM on August 8, 2011

If it were me, I would call up, tell them it is insane to be dunning you for something that is 1.5 years old and offer to split it just to make it go away. If they say no, I would pay them the $26 and consider it a shakedown that is worth it to not have to deal with it. Your time and aggravation is worth more than $26 small. You are now at the point where spending any more time on this bs is so not worth it. When you send them the check get them to say that you are now paid in full through current month.
posted by AugustWest at 2:25 PM on August 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

There's no statute of limitations anywhere I can think of that lets you off the hook for paying for rent you owe if the landlord fails to collect for a while. At best, you can consider it an interest-free loan of $26.

It's worth it to ask them how they determined that you owe them $26 when you pay your rent every month, and just ask them for an itemized list of your payments. I'm sure they keep a record. It should be easy to see where the $26 was short.

Note that landlords don't just automatically prorate rent without your asking, negotiating, and putting it in your lease. Even if you only lived there half a month in December, they don't care. If you just assumed you'd be paying less because you lived there less than the whole month, you assumed wrong.
posted by juniperesque at 2:31 PM on August 8, 2011

I'm not in L.A. or familiar with L.A. landlord-tenant law, but work with a bit of residential real estate at my job. I've never heard of a statute of limitations regarding rent, especially if you're still living in the apartment.

If you can provide proof of payment (canceled checks, front and back) that match the rent amount stated in the last signed lease, that should be your first step.

I assume the rent is the same each month, but if there are incidental charges, do you receive a statement showing what amount is due? Do you have a copy of the statement from 1/10 showing an amount due that matches your payments? I'd send this along with my proof of payment.

Is it possible that the $26 is a late charge or have they stated that it's unpaid rent? If they say it's a late charge, ask when/how they notified you of the fee and make sure their methods are within any specifics listed in the last signed lease.

On preview: AugustWest's advice about paying it to make it go away might be best for you. If I knew I had paid everything due to them, I'd have no problem fighting them for $26, at least initially. YMMV
posted by youngergirl44 at 2:39 PM on August 8, 2011

INYL, TINLA. There is a statute of limitation for these kinds of claims in California, but to assert it in litigation over $26 is not worth it. As soon as you have to set foot in the courthouse or spend any time preparing to defend the case, you lose. (Assuming that your time has some reasonable value to you.) You would be better off paying, than defending this.

You must also factor in that your landlord is undoubtedly such a moron that he/she is willing to prosecute a $26 bill 1.5 years after the fact, all while knowing that the filing fee for small claims court is $30. The aggravation you'll save is easily worth that.
posted by Hylas at 3:41 PM on August 8, 2011

Yeah, make 'em prove it.

And tell them the next time you see a mouse, you're going to a hotel on their dime until they get the exterminator out there.
posted by klangklangston at 5:19 PM on August 8, 2011

Response by poster: Hylas--the whole punitive moron factor is what worries me about these people. In all my years of renting I've never dealt with an organization quite like this. First they tell us we were short on last months' rent, then when we check bank records and dispute that, they wait a couple of weeks to claim it was actually for January 2010. Such fun! Anyway, it's good to know the filing fee is more than what they claim they owe us.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:32 PM on August 8, 2011

Response by poster: Er, they claim we owe them.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 5:33 PM on August 8, 2011

Ask them for their invoices for each month, going all the way back until you moved in, so you "can compare their records against [your] bank records going back that far." Hopefully they'll assume you mean you've already obtained those records, and unless they have perfect paperwork ready to go, they'll let it drop.
posted by davejay at 7:09 PM on August 8, 2011

Agree that this is one fight not worth fighting. Get a receipt for sure. Make them write "PAID IN FULL" or something similar on it. Be glad they're not trying to charge interest & collection fees. If you do in fact owe them money, there's a lot worse they could do than just ask you for it.
posted by Ys at 7:27 PM on August 8, 2011

Response by poster: So after much persistence they have finally acknowledged that we never owed them the damn 26 dollars. Problem resolved (until they do this again)!
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 4:56 PM on August 12, 2011

Good for you! You should still ask them for a letter stating that *all* base rent amounts and incidental charges/fees through [date] have been paid in full - especially if they sent you documentation when asking for the money.
posted by youngergirl44 at 5:15 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

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