[What about my] rental deposit with ownership change during moveout
August 21, 2017 4:28 PM   Subscribe

We're moving out of our triplex at the end of the month. Yay. The building is under contract to be purchased and the prospective buyer plans to rent our unit out when they take ownership. The current owners aren't doing anything with our unit to entice the buyers or make it turnkey rentable again. YANML but can you help me understand what'll happen to my deposit?

I don't think there's much more to explain other than our unit will need typical move out cleaning and a new carpet or thorough shampooing (but the carpet was old when we moved in and our pets have been pets on it).

I'm complementing just getting our stuff out and not doing a final clean at all because the current landlords aren't going to rent the unit while the building is being sold and the new owners will take possession after we've moved out.

I live in King County, WA and am not sure if/when the current owners will need to give me back my deposit or if they'll have a reason to hold it from me.
posted by toomanycurls to Law & Government (6 answers total)
The current owners will owe you your deposit IF you return to them a cleaned unit. If you don't clean, I don't see how you could expect to get your deposit back. The incoming owner most likely won't even be involved in the transaction...
posted by summerstorm at 4:34 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Washington Security Deposit Law (via Nolo Press)
posted by China Grover at 4:55 PM on August 21, 2017

The helpful item from the law link is that they'll have to show a receipt of what they did in order to show cause for keeping the deposit. I don't think they're going to bother to do anything (or I'm willing to risk making minimal effort).
posted by toomanycurls at 5:24 PM on August 21, 2017

I bought a house with tenants in it. The security deposit that the tenants gave to the previous owners was deposited into the escrow account. You should make sure that's happening with your current landlord, because if it's not part of the terms of the sale, it could be problematic for you when you leave and want your money back.

We returned the security deposit to the tenants when they moved out because they left the house clean and in good condition. If they had just taken their stuff and not cleaned it, or left obvious damage (from when I had the home inspected, I had lots of pictures) I probably would have lessed all of whatever I had to pay to clean it and get it fixed.

Either way, you should clean when you leave. Someone else will have to clean it up if not you. Why should it not be you?
posted by pazazygeek at 7:31 PM on August 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

You absolutely should clean the place to a reasonable standard, but do be aware that if you've been there more than a couple of years, they cannot dock your deposit for shampooing the carpet, and depending on the age, even for a full replacement. Carpets in rental units are expected to last 4-5 years, under normal wear and tear. Some jurisdictions have specific laws on this, others just have case law protecting you, but basically, carpet wears out, so the landlord doesn't get to charge the last tenant for the cost of replacement. They should be setting the rent high enough to cover that and any other normal wear and tear. If not, that's their problem.
posted by wierdo at 8:00 AM on August 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think another thing to consider here is whether your landlord is known for giving back deposits at all. I had some friends living in a weird slumlord situation where the guy was basically known to never return deposits -- technically I guess they could have sued him in small claims, but they were moving out of state and it was not worth the trouble. So, they obviously did not bother to clean and in fact left a giant pile of trash in the middle of the place (normally not something I would recommend, but this landlord was truly terrible and this was not the first disagreement, plus they knew they were out their deposit regardless).

However, if your landlord has generally acted in good faith and you expect your deposit to be returned, I think you should clean -- I have never cleaned a place to what I thought was necessarily "professional" standards, but always make a good faith effort, and have never been docked security deposit for lack of cleanliness. Another option if you really don't want to deal is to find a professional cleaner -- there are often good deals on Groupon, just make sure to check the fine print (some Groupon cleaners won't do move-outs because they know you are no chance of repeat business). My sense is that if a brief walkthrough shows you've made an effort to clean, a good landlord won't dock your deposit; if it's clear you've made zero effort, I can't see why they won't hire cleaners and charge the amount to your deposit. And I can't see what argument you would possibly have in that situation -- they are going to be able to provide receipts for the cleaners, and I don't know why they wouldn't hire them. Even if they're not doing major remodels, the new owners are not going to want a unit full of trash or a fridge full of moldy food or whatever.
posted by rainbowbrite at 8:13 AM on August 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

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