A month after move, ex-landlord now wants money for "damages" to condo.
February 6, 2014 11:10 AM   Subscribe

We rented a condo in Chicago for 6 years and moved out last month. We had a month to month agreement with the owner and no security deposit was given or requested at the time we moved in. We hired an established cleaning crew to go through the apt on the day after moving out and paid them $250.00 for cleaning the 2 bedroom duplex. The owner showed up at the same time and everything was amenable, no problems were stated at that time. He said he was going to do some re-hab work as he wanted to raise the rental price 'acknowledging the whole unit needed a lot of updating in order to merit the higher rent. Now, a month later, he sent an email saying that we owe him over $1000.00 as he has found out many things that need repair such as excessive nail holes in the wall, some junk removal (clay pots on the deck, etc) some other minor damages and he says the dishwasher needs to be replaced at $800.00. When we left the unit the dishwasher, a 6 year old Bosch, was working fine. What are our obligations here? Thanks.
posted by Tullyogallaghan to Law & Government (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Invite him to take you to small claims court and prove up his damages.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:13 AM on February 6, 2014 [12 favorites]

tell him to pound sand.
posted by bruce at 11:18 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's not much you can do other than what has already been mentioned, but this is why it's a good idea to take pictures upon move-in and move-out, and to get any assessment from the landlord in writing while you're there.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:20 AM on February 6, 2014

You have no obligations. Ignore him unless he decides to take you to court.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 11:21 AM on February 6, 2014

Ignore him. You've moved out; he'll never be able to collect that money without taking you to small claims, and winning. Even if there's something in your old contract saying you have to pay for stuff like this (which I doubt there is, since you had no security deposit) trying to do that would involve a lot of hassle and expense on his part for a case that he'd probably lose anyway. This shakedown is almost totally unenforceable and you have no moral obligation to comply. Don't even tell him to fuck off; just ignore him unless his pestering becomes harassment, in which case you should report him to the cops.

He's just being an asshole, which is not unusual for a landlord. (Not all landlords are assholes of course, but many of them are.) He figures he has nothing to lose by shaking you down -- it costs him little effort, and you might roll over. However, he'd be crazy to go to the effort of taking you to court and trying to enforce the charges, so you can safely ignore his shitty behavior.
posted by Scientist at 11:27 AM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you go to court, your arguement should be, "That is normal wear and tear on a 6 year old apartment."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:27 AM on February 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

I agree with the others but want to emphasize the "offer no response" part. Do not write back to justify anything, do not argue, do not "weigh in" on the condition of the apartment, the dishwasher, or any of it -- tempted though you may be.

Offer no response.
posted by vitabellosi at 11:39 AM on February 6, 2014 [8 favorites]

(And keep the receipt for the cleaning, just in case.)
posted by vitabellosi at 11:39 AM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thanks for the good advice.
This guy was a just about a complete zero in terms of getting anything done around the place - showed no interest in it even in getting routine yearly maintenance done to the furnace, etc.

In the final months the condo was actually "sold" for back taxes but the owner had the chance to buy it back if he paid them which, apparently, he did do. It was quite disturbing to have the Sheriff's uniformed Police come banging on our door serving us with duplicate notices every other week. As renters of the condo in question we had to be served along with him and the condo association.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 11:42 AM on February 6, 2014

Here's a .pdf about Illinois landlord-tenant law. Did your landlord present an itemized list to you before your move-in? Did you sign anything? If not, I'd say that just ignoring him is your best bet here. (IANAL)
posted by tyro urge at 11:53 AM on February 6, 2014

I'm a landlord in Virginia and my understanding, while not ironclad, is that when my tenant moves out I have 30 days to provide a written itemized list of damages. If I don't do it in this time I forfeit any claim. I don't know how it works in your area, but I've heard this sort of law is common.
posted by dgran at 12:15 PM on February 6, 2014

I'm a landlord in Virginia and my understanding, while not ironclad, is that when my tenant moves out I have 30 days to provide a written itemized list of damages.

In Chicago, this is the case if the landlord is withholding damages from the security deposit. In this case, there is no security deposit, so there is no withholding and thus no timeline (other than the usual statute of limitations). In any event it's up to the landlord to sue, and it sounds very unlikely he will.
posted by payoto at 12:30 PM on February 6, 2014

I would not respond to this at all. Maybe admire the balls for trying, though.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 12:37 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

In sum, it is ridiculous.

The pots on the patio, you probably should have dealt with but unless they were enormous, disposing of them isn't even worth noting.

Nail holes in walls? After 6 years the wlls are going to have to be patched and painted anyway.

Charging you to replace an 8 year okd dishwasher? Unless it was filled with rocks, or you used it to burn your trash, or you kept your pet mini-mechano-goat in it, its his responsibility, whether or not it was working when you moved out.

I'd ignore it from here on out. The only additional attention it merits is if he takes you to small claims court, which seems exceedingly unlikely.
posted by Good Brain at 1:27 PM on February 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

this is why it's a good idea to take pictures upon move-in and move-out

In a case like this it wouldn't even be necessary, especially if he was there for a walkthrough after it was cleaned. "Excessive nail holes"? Removal of clay pots? This would very likely not be successful at all in Small Claims if it got that far, and if his time is valuable enough to bill you for removing a couple of flower pots in the middle of renos, it's not worth it for him to even bother. Provided you didn't leave your initials in the wall with a nailgun and dump a bunch of gravel in the dishwasher or something, this sounds like reasonable wear and tear, and that's the landlord's responsibility.
posted by Hoopo at 2:17 PM on February 6, 2014

Be careful about telling him to fuck off, i've had TWO landlords send me to collections with no notice(I.E. illegally) after i did that, and it was a pain in the ass to deal with.

I can't offer advice on what you SHOULD do, but "ignore it until it goes away" doesn't seem like a great option. You should search around and contact a local tenants rights organization and see what the best course of action to take here is, and make sure that if you don't act he can't take further action against you and fuck up your credit.
posted by emptythought at 3:01 PM on February 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

I would suggest you see if the truly awesome self-help resources at Illinois Legal Aid Online can help or if someone at the CARPLS helpline can answer your question.
posted by crush-onastick at 3:15 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

The advice to not respond is probably best. But I once responded to a landlord in a similar situation with a letter that assessed costs for all of the shitty things I experienced while living there, subtracted what he claimed I owed him, and left the rest a as a balance he owed me. Needless to say, he never responded, but it was very, very satisfying.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 3:40 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not sure about the advice to ignore it. I'd be worried that he's going to send it to collections, as emptythought experienced.

I'd probably write up a note that references the law; references the cleaning (with a copy of the receipt); references his presence at your check-out and the fact that no problems were noted at the time; referencing that the dishwasher was working fine, etc. I might also include the part that he neglected to fulfill his legal duties to keep the furnace in working order in violation of (whatever code it is that lists his duty to keep the place functional.) I'd close with something like "as there is no basis for your claim in fact or law, I am considering this matter closed." I just think with that on record, he might be a little less likely to try to pursue action against you.

From what I've seen, it's trivially easy to send stuff to collections whether you have a legal right to or not, and it's a massive pain in the ass to deal with once it's there.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:04 PM on February 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

You can protest dings on your credit report, so, if he does send it to collections, which later causes you grief trying to get a loan or something, you whip out a copy of this letter you sent - along with the registered mail receipt, to show the lender by way of explanation. (IAALL)
posted by rudd135 at 4:43 AM on February 7, 2014

« Older Reasonable expectations for a buyer's agent in a...   |   Need information about activism for dog-friendly... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.