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September 5, 2011 6:21 AM   Subscribe

Rented my house to a bunch of jerks. Besides the usual, they broke things I don't know how to value. Help?

So I rented my home for most of the summer to a local organization, and I'm now dealing with the aftermath. The short story - org parked their student instructors my place, with the understanding that there would be close adult supervision, no loud parties, etc. Apparently, the adults were part of the problem. Fun times.

Right now, I'm trying to figure out valuations for the damage, and whether their security deposit covers it. And there are a few issues where I'm stumped, because there is no replacement cost for some items. I'm hoping the hive mind could help me understand what the proper course of action regarding valuation is in this case?

(NYState, Suffolk County, FWIW).

First things first - they broke/damaged a number of items that were, admittedly, worn out. I'm not happy with the fact they broke my porch swing, but it was admittedly old, and full of dry rot. Same with the chair cushions that have seen better days. I'm annoyed, but willing to look past the "worn out / wear & tear" items.

Let's also ignore the fact that they violated the terms of the lease when I found out (after the fact, unfortunately) that they pissed off all my neighbors and had the cops called on them on multiple nights.

With that, the list of stuff I'm stumped on:

1) They destroyed an Italian handpainted ceramic plaque that my late mother hung on the front of the house when it was built. It's completely irreplaceable, a part of the house, tremendous sentimental value, etc. It was not carelessly hung - it was screwed in, survived multiple hurricanes, etc. It was likely purchased for around $100 in 2011 Dollars, but it was purchased in 1984. By my late mother. In Italy.

2) Where the plaque was hung, there's gouge/chip damage to the logs (it's a log cabin). It looks like it was hit with something sharp. Multiple times. This will need patching and re-staining ($100-300, I'm guessing - no estimate yet), but the damage is permanent - it will never go away. It's not a piece of siding that can be pulled out and replaced. It's the house.

#1 & #2 are the most infuriating, because this was outright vandalism (there were other, replaceable, items in the house that could only have been destroyed if someone *tried* - drunken clumsiness does not explain). I have not gotten *any* explanation from the organization on it. Furthermore, I have no idea how to value these.

By mutual agreement (though unfortunately not on the lease agreement), they removed some of my furniture for the season to make room for bunks. They did a slipshod job on this.

3) One bed, with sliding storage drawers underneath, is *missing* two drawers. They took responsibility for the bed, and putting it back in one piece, but they failed. If they can't find the drawers, how do I value?

4) One mattress is showing obvious water stains/water damage that were not there before. The mattress was by no means new, but it was in good shape. Now it's dirty, and kind of moldy.

5) A big chuck (400 sqft) of my lawn is dead, due to them parking all over it. Do I charge them for a bag of grass seed and $100 in labor? What's the best course of action.

What's fair, what's the proper way to go about this?

Thank you, hive mind. I've been seeing red for over a week, and I feel like putting dollar values on this stuff is the next step towards finally closing this.
posted by swngnmonk to Home & Garden (39 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Fair? keep the security deposit. If they give you trouble, tell them you'll see them in court. Their behavior was reprehensible.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:23 AM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: @jenkinsEar - that goes without saying. My fear is that if I make an honest breakdown of the costs, the security deposit won't be enough. They overstayed by a few days (did not clean up / replace items on time), and their utility usage exceeded the utility deposit.

When I pro-rate the overstay, and account for the utility overage as well, the security deposit gets a lot smaller. :(
posted by swngnmonk at 6:34 AM on September 5, 2011

Keep the entire deposit, no matter what it is. Document the shit out of everything. I hope you had "before" photos. I've heard speak of a thing called a "blacklist", but whether it exists, and how you would get a name on that list, I sadly cannot say. It might be worth investigating.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:34 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, well if the deposit doesn't cover it, take them to small claims court. Easy.
posted by tumid dahlia at 6:35 AM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Of course. But to take them to SCC, I need a defensible way to value some of this damage. Of course, in SCC, I could demand a new mattress, or a new bed, but I can't demand a new irreplaceable plaque, or a new set of well-aged logs. :P
posted by swngnmonk at 6:37 AM on September 5, 2011

First, as far as repairing damaged property get estimates for what it would cost a professional to make those repairs. So for example, call a landscaping company and get an estimate to repair the lawn. What it would cost you to do it yourself is NOT the point. You should not have to do it. And photo document everything! As far as damaged or missing furniture is concerned, in a small claims court, you would not be entitled to whatever the cost of these items would be if purchased new. You are entitled to their replacement costs, which for used furniture or an old mattress would not be much. After you get estimates for the fixes that will require professional help, add it all up. Is it close to the security deposit? If so, keep the security deposit and call it a day.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:38 AM on September 5, 2011 [10 favorites]

For 3 and 4, (assuming the drawers never show up) you should charge them whatever it costs you to replace the bed and mattress. They ruined your property they ought to pay for replacing them.

For 2 and 5 call several (I'd say three) lawn care companies (or general contractors/ handymen) and ask for quotes. Charge them the average. The people will know how to properly value the costs in materials and time to make these repairs (if they didn't they wouldn't be in business, right?). Don't worry about whether you will be doing the job or whether you pay for it to be done. The business will give a fair, impartial estimate of costs. Use that.

For, 1, I'm of two minds.

A) If you are feeling very hurt and want to make sure that they get the message that their behavior was completely unacceptable I'd charge them for a trip to Italy and the cost of a new piece. This is probably a bit extreme, but it's not entirely unreasonable. Although the cost (to them) of this option would likely have to be won via court action.

B) I'd bet that you have lot's of picture of the plaque. Possibly even a few nice close-ups. I'd contact a local potter (or two) and ask them for an estimate for creating a high quality replica of the original.

Essentially, I believe that they have an obligation to replace what they broke, period. Replacing many of the items that they broke may not be cheap, but it's what is fair. And of course avoiding these costs was entirely in their hands. You should definitely be willing to take them to court over this. (You may also mention that the bad publicity from this court action would likely be bad or even very bad for them. So, really, it's in their interests to settle.)
posted by oddman at 6:39 AM on September 5, 2011 [15 favorites]

Hopefully your lease with them indicated that they are responsible for all damage, even if it exceeds their security deposit.

The way I'd do this would be to get estimates of how much the things will cost to replace and add them up.

For things like the mattress, find some reasonable estimate of how long a mattress is supposed to last, figure out how long you've had it, and then prorate the cost of the new one. Or, if you're feeling saucy, just bill them for the whole thing, and if they complain use that as a place you can come down.

Document everything.

When you send them the bill, itemize it and be very specific. Offer to send them the extra documentation (quotes, prices, etc) if they want to see it.

For the grass, I'd call a couple of lawn care places and see what they say is the best way to fix the problem.

I have no answers for your irreplaceable plaque.

Also: read your jurisdiction's landlord/tenant laws and make sure you abide by them. A lawyer might be over-kill for this situation, but it certainly wouldn't hurt.
posted by toomuchpete at 6:39 AM on September 5, 2011

Yes, at least document this. It might be useful to have a doc with a set of columns or template pages, with:

- photos
- descriptions of the damage
- estimates of remediation costs (think of a reasonable number, e.g. replacement minus wear and tear, then add 50-100% for aggravation and your own work
- get estimates from a good house cleaner, and also from a gardener/turf guy; add those in
- add utilities
- add something for your time

Summarize with a spreadsheet or something - line by line, itemized costs.

Don't know if you are still on speaking terms with the neighbours but maybe get some short statements from them.

Start by doing this.
posted by carter at 6:41 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I fear that sentimental value is difficult to count, but everything else should be no problem. A garden specialist for the grass, for example: they'll tell you what it costs to re-furbish the lawn.
The damage to the house could be estimated by a contractor who does log cabins; that'll give you an idea of whether small claims court will be next.

Sorry to hear you're having to deal with this.
posted by Namlit at 6:42 AM on September 5, 2011

I just want to clarify my previous comment. By replacement costs, I mean the value of the used furniture or mattress that was damaged. How much is a used mattress worth if you tried to sell it? Probably nothing. So, a court will not grant you a new mattress because then you would be coming out way ahead, and the purpose of the small claims court is to make you get another used mattress or the equivalent value, which is zilch. The fact that you are now forced to buy a new one does not matter.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:43 AM on September 5, 2011

Ugh. Sounds horrible.

A couple of questions that might matter in this. I realize these aren't direct responses to your question, but I feel like they might help figure out the issue a bit.

1) How much is the security deposit? (ie: is it possible it might be something close to what you need to cover the damges?)

2) If the damages are substantially more than the amount of the security deposit, do you have a sense of how/whether you'd be able to collect the money? Would you try to get it from the kids? From the organization? Do you think the organization, say, might just give you the money if you describe the problem, or do you think you'd have to go to small claims court?

3) Have you spoken with the organization who rented your home about this problem? Knowing their response to this would be helpful. If you are lucky- maybe they have had this sort of problem before, and might have some sort of way to help.

How you choose to evaluate the damages might in some ways need to reflect the answers to some of these questions.
posted by ManInSuit at 6:43 AM on September 5, 2011

Regarding 3 and 4, I'd list full replacement value. Same with things like the porch swing. You'll almost certainly end up negotiating downward, but given that there *will* be negotiation, start off high and get their attention.

As for 'adult supervision', no, the landlord is not there in loco parentis. That's the point of a lease.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:44 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Local organization=local board members?

I have nothing the add regarding how to value your stuff, but I would be tempted to contact each board member and ask him/her to come to your house for tea, and treat them to a tour, before everything has been fixed.

You don't say what kind of organization this is, but making things uncomfortable for the board members means it will become uncomfortable for the staff, who should've provided oversight.
posted by vitabellosi at 6:45 AM on September 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


1 - plate - $500
2 - logs - call a finish contractor or two, or maybe a floor finisher, get quotes
3 - bed - get some prices from Craigslist for an equivalent item, maybe add in $20 if you need to rent a truck
4 - mattress - 50% of new price
5 - get quotes from gardening contractors
posted by carter at 6:46 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Original security deposit was $2500.

After the overages, there's about $1500 left.

When I first got out here last week, I met the adult who was supposed to be their representative supervision. Needless to say, he was a jerk, and couldn't supervise himself. Rather than answer my questions, he behaved rudely, so I asked him to leave.

I then promptly called the police to file a report to document the damages. They asked if I'd be ok with the manager of the org (different guy) coming along, as I was filing a complaint against them. I agreed.

When they arrived, I greeted the officer and the manager, and told them that I asked to file a report because I wasn't sure if the deposit would cover the damage, and that there might be a liability concern, so I wanted a record.

The manager's response?

"You don't want to sue us. 40 of our members are lawyers, any one of them will represent us."

So yes, he's an idiot, and an ass.
posted by swngnmonk at 6:48 AM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ha, if you're paying a rental agent, you should check your contract with them (if you have one) to see where the responsibility falls. Presumably they find the tenants, collect the rent, keep their cut/commission, and send the rest to you - and at the end, give you back your house in the condition in which you gave it to them.
posted by carter at 6:53 AM on September 5, 2011

This sucks, but IME limited experience, any sort of renting out of a home (a summer cottage/cabin or regular house) means that you have to go to great lengths to remove anything that you care about from the property and be ready to expect damages.

Although MeFi can help you think through what to do right now, you probably want to consult a lawyer ASAP. S/he will be able to tell you what your options are.

But all-in-all, even though it sucks that they did this and especially that they damaged your mother's plaque, destruction is always within the realm of possibilities.
posted by k8t at 6:54 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Were you paying the realtor to manage or was it just a one-time commission? If your realtor was getting part of the monthly, I would drag him or her into this. That’s who should be getting the place repaired and collecting additional money from these people.

I’ve had this happen before and I ended up eating the cost. I’ve never been out more than about $1000 over the deposit. If it exceeded that, then I would probably take them to court.
posted by iscavenger at 7:01 AM on September 5, 2011

As a tenant in New York state, the attorney generals office covered a lot of my rights, especially regarding security deposits. I bet they have some resources for landlords, too, and will be of more use to you than opinions from the internets.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 7:10 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

(IANAL, I know nothing about New York law or small claims court, etc.)

For item #2, the permanent damage to the logs, I wonder if you could get a real estate professional of some sort to estimate how the damage will affect the resale value of the house after it's repaired? This might be a dead end—they might say that once the patching and staining is done it won't affect the value of the house even if the damage is still visible. And even if they do put a dollar value on the damage, I don't know whether that's the kind of thing you can collect for in small claims court, but as others have suggested, if you're going to start by billing the organization directly and negotiating a settlement, you probably want to err on the side of putting more charges on the list.
posted by Orinda at 7:31 AM on September 5, 2011

Vandalism is a crime. Treat the destruction of your property exactly as you would if it'd been stolen. Police report.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:00 AM on September 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

IANAL, but if lawyers are getting involved, posting the name of the organization sounds like a bad idea.
posted by teraflop at 8:02 AM on September 5, 2011

You have gotten some VERY BAD layman's advice about how to value your repairs and address these very important issues.

Document ALL damage with photos and a written list. The list should include additional days of rent and utilities...

CONSULT A LAWYER. Even as a free consult, or just pay $200 for an hour of one's time. Consult a lawyer.

For example, I'm pretty sure you must provide receipts for completed work - not estimates. I believe you are entitled to replace any furniture or fixtures damaged with new. You definitely want a professional repair (likely expensive) and not a cheapy handyman fix to the exterior of your property and so on. Don't sell yourself short by guessing and negotiating this yourself.

This sounds like too much with too many variables. Consult a lawyer. My hope is they can negotiate a settlement above the deposit to cover the damages. You need solid advice as this is ALOT of damage. Lawyer.
posted by jbenben at 8:03 AM on September 5, 2011 [19 favorites]

I agree with jbenben. The cost of the plaque and log damage alone equals the security deposit. In a fantasy world, it would be 1-300 dollars to fix all that, but to actually get professional contractors to do it, (you shouldn't have to lift a finger to repair the damage they caused), it'll be considerably more. As far as the bed, swing, etc. they were still working perfectly well and serving the purpose for which they were intended when you left, and now they are not. They need to be replaced in full.

Being that they stayed past the terms of the contract, they owe you more money.

And the ass-hatted behavior of the manager of the organization would probably push all my estimates up by at least 30%.
posted by Jon_Evil at 8:46 AM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

Next time the deposit should be $5,000 to $8,000 for a furnished home long-term rental.

There could have been costly plumbing repairs, or similar. The tenants could have accidentally flooded your house, requiring professional treatment to prevent mold and new flooring throughout. That sort of thing.

$2500 was not enough to cover potentially liabilities.

This is why I think you need a lawyer. I say this with kindness and respect, but even via your updates, you seem to be in over your head on this from beginning to end.

Please call several lawyers on the phone, explain your situation, and find one (or two) for an in person consult.

I know I answered once already, just wanted to explain why I know you need professional legal advice. I've owned and managed rental properties and was a licensed rental agent in NYC way back in college. If you proceed as you have been, you will be out A LOT of money and your property will never be made "whole" because you won't have the money to repair or replace.

You also need an attorney because you are dealing with some sort of organization or institution and not a private party.

Lawyer. Good luck!
posted by jbenben at 8:54 AM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Without intending disrespect, many of the upthread valuations are nonsense. No, you cannot charge them for a new trip to Italy. But no, they can't destroy your mattresses with impunity simply because it's difficult to sell a used mattress. nthing talk to a lawyer and get this appraisal done right.

(Also, obviously, threats to the effect that "we're all lawyers so the law doesn't apply to us" are silly at best.)
posted by foursentences at 9:19 AM on September 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

As jbenben points out, you need a lawyer just because you're dealing with an institution -- and one that hasn't volunteered to make things good, as you would expect a responsible one to do.

You are obviously in over your head, as you didn't even realize that what you had was a de facto sublet arrangement (the org is your tenant; the people living there were their tenants, your sub-lessees). This alone requires a lawyer (whom you should have involved at the outset of this sublease). You also made an error involving the police (who investigate crimes) in a civil matter (almost all housing disputes are concluded by a civil lawsuit, including evictions). No wonder they threatened you back! The court generally does recognize de facto sublets, as when a tenant allows a guest to move in; in most jurisdictions the tenant can evict the guest as if they were the landlord, notwithstanding paperwork describing a landlord-tenant arrangement. In fact, the organization should be legally able to pass anything it owes you on to its own tenants (whether this is practical is a problem for them to solve).

You really need a handbook on landlording and landlord-tenant law. (I recommend Nolo's Every Landlord's Legal Guide -- even if you use a lawyer at points, this will help you immensely in understanding the process and planning for the future. Do note that state and even municipal rules about security deposits vary and you need to know, for example, if there is a limit to how large they can be, whether you need to pay interest on them, and under what circumstances and timeframes they need to be returned.

As to a blacklist, there really is no such thing beyond court and credit records. If this org ends up in court with you, that will limit their options for renting out like this in the future (which sounds like a good thing to me -- the impression you give is that they're irresponsible asshats). The damage they allowed to happen on their watch (as sub-landlord) was unforgivable. They should have cleaned up and repaired and returned the home to you in pristine condition; they didn't. They should, at minimum, have given you an offer to cover your costs; they didn't.

Basically, an attorney can help you sort this out by preparing a demand letter which will go to the organization for handling by the board, and any settlement offers and whether they're worth taking. Any offer should include, by the way, your attorney's fees; in court, should they lose, they will be liable for those, and their lawyers know it.
posted by dhartung at 9:19 AM on September 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

"You don't want to sue us. 40 of our members are lawyers, any one of them will represent us."

I don't believe him. 40 lawyers can't undo the facts: their people trashed your place. (Furthermore, I sincerely doubt the membership of his organization will be thrilled to find out that this guy did an extremely poor job of supervising, resulting in this situation, and will be eager to represent the organization in court over the matter.) Get a lawyer and have him or her sort it out.
posted by citron at 10:00 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing the suggestions to get a lawyer and to have professional contractors complete the work. I also really like the suggestion of getting a local pottery person to create a replica of the plaque. I also wanted to point out that there may be time limits in your jurisdiction regarding your providing an itemized list of repair costs. In Chicago, the LL has 30 days to provide a list of all deductions from the deposit, and 45 days to return the balance of the deposit (and interest), if any.
posted by youngergirl44 at 10:27 AM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm a landlord in Texas who just went though the same things, though my guys weren't malicious.

First, photograph everything. Keep all receipts and keep a running invoice of your labor and expenses.

Second, you mentioned that they violated the terms of lease. In Texas that means they forfeit their deposit and further damages come out of THEIR pocket.

1) I don't know how you can charge for sentimental value. It's not really the kind of thing that has wear and tear on it, so I'd charge what it'd cost to buy a comparable-kind-of-thing and charge for the labor to replace it.
2) That's tough. I don't know anything about log cabins, but is there a way to fix it entirely and not just patch it? Would it cost thousands or something to do so? You have to strike a balance between covering your costs and actually being able to get the money. I mean, hypothetically, if they did $50,000 damage to the house, that would suck, but you'd have a hard time collecting the money even after going to court. I'd probably have it patched and charge the full amount for that.
3) Can you replace the drawers? Charge for that. No? It's useless. Replace it and charge for it.
4) This applies to you swinging chair and other partially worn out, but now destroyed items too. I'll use the mattress by way of example. Say the mattress is 6 years old, and expected to last 10 years, but now it's trash because of them. Charge 40% or the replacement cost.
5) I'd charge for the seed, and for labor by the hour.

Now, I imagine your parting was not too amicable, but even if it wasn't it's worth being diplomatic. Give whoever you need to a heads up when you get an idea of what you're going to be owed, but still send your registered letter when it's all calculated. Go out of your way to do things on the cheap (but not lower quality). That means get a couple of estimates for the gouge, if you find a swinging chair in good shape at a garage sale, pay $50 for that instead of $200 new. You get the idea. This does two things. It makes the short term hit on your pocket less. It also makes your former lessees less likely to feel like you're gouging them for all they're worth. I know it's tempting to do that, but it won't help you in court, and it won't help you get your money.
posted by cmoj at 11:25 AM on September 5, 2011

"You don't want to sue us. 40 of our members are lawyers, any one of them will represent us."

Yes, he's an idiot and an ass. Still, this right here should be your trigger to get a lawyer and let your lawyer do all the communication. Even if the organization were behaving reasonably and falling over themselves trying to make it right, it would be risky and ill-advised for you to proceed without legal counsel. Given that they're already waving the lawyer threat over your head, it would be reckless and foolhardy for you to proceed without legal counsel.

Lawyer. Lawyer with experience and expertise in the issues involved. Lawyer, lawyer, lawyer. And have no further dealing with the organization yourself; let the lawyer handle it.
posted by Lexica at 11:29 AM on September 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

If I were you, I would write a letter detailing the damage and your distress. Include the information about the police visits and the angry neighbors. Point out that this behavior has damaged the reputation of the org in your community. Include narrative of the inappropriate and rude remarks of the 2 individuals you dealt with and your estimate of the costs above the security deposits. Ask then to reimburse you and ask for an apology. Send this letter to the CEO, the president, and the board members. If they don't respond satisfactorily, send a copy of the letter to your local paper, and, if the local station has a consumer protection beat, to them as well. If you are lucky, you will get fully reimbursed, you will get an apology, and some people may fet fired.
posted by bq at 12:04 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

1. Sentimental value is unlikely to be allowed in small claims court. I'd guess the plaque has a replacement value of @ 300., Do a little research if you can.
2. Exterior wall - you have an estimated repair cost.
3. sliding storage missing two drawers - cost to replace used item @ 50% of new
4. Mattress - 50% sounds about right
5. cost of lawn care company to repair lawn

porch swing & cushions - 33% of replacement
extra days
cleaning costs
detail every it of damage, with pictures, repair estimates, replacement costs.

Loss of use while cleaning and repairing - make this conservative, but it is an expense.

What's the limit on small claims? Don't claim more then that, or you can't use small claims court. If you get to small claims court, be calm, use facts, and don't engage with the 40 lawyers. Small claims uses the judge's common sense. The judge will have seen much worse. The more reasonable you are, the better you will fare.

What a pile of jackasses. Bq's advice would likely be satisfying.
posted by theora55 at 4:29 PM on September 5, 2011

I don't understand the pro-rating of the value of items, especially in light of the tenant's lease obligations regarding those items -- I think people here are advising on small claims court experiences NOT related to landlord/tenant issues.

If a tenant breaks a window, door, ruins carpet, etc - I charge full replacement cost. I pay the bill for replacement and installation with the tenant's deposit money, and then I provide the tenant with a copy of the receipt. Ditto for fixtures. I can't see how the OP should only recoup 40% to 50% to replace a mattress when that amount of money will not get the OP a mattress of similar quality and the house will now be without one mattress unless the OP eats the cost! Let me put it another way.... Tenant breaks glass in window, ruins a carpet, or breaks a light fixture - as a landlord, I don't have to hunt up used carpet of the same age as the used carpet, buy used light fixtures from a garage sale, or have to source reclaimed glass to replace the window pane, so why must the OP go without the furnishings provided in the house under the lease or accept a fraction of their value as compensation??

OP, I am also worried that you only have 2 weeks to 30 days to return this deposit money or provide receipts. Check your jurisdiction for the time frame, because you want to write certified letters and get yourself on record to the tenant in whatever way your jurisdiction requires it, and in the timeframe that your jurisdiction requires it.

Talk to your local landlord tenant agency or union if you don't feel like calling a lawyer. (Not calling a lawyer is super unwise, btw, but some people aren't comfortable with them. I want to make sure you get some solid advice for your jurisdiction regarding your issues with these folks.) Get clarification on how to withhold the deposit funds (estimates or receipts, deadline for providing documentation, etc) and get clarification on the replacement costs on your furnishings. Was the swing fully functional when the lease commenced? Then you should probably get a new swing. Ripping the plaque off the exterior is outright vandalism and you should absolutely seek full reimbursement. It's not about the plaque or your mom, it's about vandalism to an important exterior architectural feature on your property!

I hope this all goes well for you. So sorry you have to deal with it, I know how upsetting this is.

posted by jbenben at 6:22 PM on September 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I believe it's the concept of betterment that means a landlord can't replace an old mattress with a new one and expect the tenant to pay for all of it. This may be just be an English thing -
posted by JonB at 10:50 PM on September 5, 2011

Depending on the size of your town and the nature of the organization, you might be able to get the media interested in this story (and/or use threat of same as a bargaining chip). By which I mean, a small-town paper might be interested in a story like

"When swingnmonk left smalltown for the summer and rented his family cabin to the local Dogs for the Blind charity, he never imagined that he'd come back to a pile of rubble. The organization -- famous for its charitable labors with puppies and its commercial showing someone cuddling a pudgy Labrador -- had broken his porch swing, lost his furniture, destroyed priceless family heirlooms and uprooted a large portion of his lawn.

How could an organization so devoted to doing good cause so much damage?"
posted by hungrytiger at 11:49 PM on September 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

p.s. I'm serious. The local TV in Mom-hungrytiger's small town recently came out to do a story about poisonous mushrooms growing in her back yard. People are interested in stories like yours; they make people indignant. You'd have to call the paper/station yourself, though, and it depends on how slow the news day was.
posted by hungrytiger at 11:53 PM on September 5, 2011

Response by poster: In the interests of keeping people posted and being a good mefite citizen. ;)

Yesterday was a mess of photo-taking, and listing all the damaged items, etc. I did some cursory research on replacement costs for some things (e.g. bed frames, mattresses, etc).

Today, I spoke with my lawyer, and our conversation basically boiled down to what I already knew - that I will be coming up with a defensible dollar value for everything affected, and I will be presenting the org with an organized list, and a bill for damages above the security deposit. "Wear and Tear" is a bogus excuse, and anything that needs repair or replacement will be included.

At which point, we will have a conversation about what the final value will be, and what my course of action will be, etc.

Like all civil matters, in the end, it's a pretty straightforward negotiation. I want money. They don't want to pay. But they're also sensitive to their reputation. And so, we will proceed. We will eventually come to a number that I am satisfied with.

If this ends up in the People's Court, I'll be sure to give the Green a heads-up.

Thank you all, it was extremely helpful.
posted by swngnmonk at 2:45 PM on September 6, 2011 [2 favorites]

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