How to avoid arguments over security deposits
By James Miller
It is no secret that property managers are one of the most sued professions. As landlords and investors we need to be able to reduce the possibility of this any way we can.
It is my contention that most arguments that ultimately lead to court actions stem from some sort of miscommunication.
While there are people out there who try to sue for just about anything, I think most people who end up in court feel that they have been wronged by someone, but have not been able to work it out with that party.
For landlords and property managers, having a good explanation of what is expected will help to reduce the possibility of arguments and court.
I found that repairs cost me much more than tenants expected and I was constantly getting challenged on the costs.
My answer to this problem was to create a schedule of fees for security deposit withholding. Here is what I came up with:
Schedule of fees for security deposit withholding
This is the general guideline used to determine what charges to hold against a tenants security deposit. It should be noted that this is a general guideline and charges are determined on a case-by-case basis and may be higher depending upon the situation. It should also be noted that we have 21 days by law to return your security deposit. We will do everything we can to speed up the process.
We are fair in our evaluation of what to withhold from a tenants security deposit and do not treat it as a way to profit from the end of a tenants lease. A large amount of effort is needed to turn an apartment, and money is only withheld to cover any excessive damage that is beyond what is normal wear and tear.–
Time for our personnel is expensed out at $50/hour.
Materials are expensed pass through.
Light Carpet Cleaning $25 per room, no remaining or difficult stains
Heavy Carpet Cleaning $50 per room, stains remain or are difficult
Extra Heavy stains in Carpeting that require replacement of the carpeting will be charged on a time & materials basis.
Light wall patching (larger than pencil eraser, smaller than quarter) $15 per occurrence
Medium wall patching (larger than quarter, smaller than baseball) $30 per occurrence
Heavy wall patching (Baseball size & larger) minimum $50 per occurrence, or time + materials
Cleaning toilet $25 (as evidenced by remaining stains, dirt, mildew or hair)
Cleaning tub $25 (as evidenced by remaining stains, dirt, mildew, or hair)
Cleaning sinks $25 (as evidenced by remaining stains, dirt, mildew, or hair)
Cleaning Windows $10 per window
Missing/damaged outlet or switch plate $5 (plate plus installation)
Removal of trash/debris $45 per garbage bag full. Large items such as furniture and appliances the size of a microwave or smaller at $75.00. Large appliances and furniture at $150 per item.
Property damage: I.E. broken fixtures, windows, appliances Etc. charged at time plus materials. Any cost for outside labor for repair will be passed through with a $15 up charge.
Light bulbs: All lights were supplied in working order with light bulbs. It is the tenants responsibility to provide the apartment to us in the same fashion any missing/out bulbs will be charged at $5.00 per for normal 40-60 incandescent. (bulb + installation) Special bulbs
Fire alarms: Were supplied in working order with fresh batteries. Will be charged $20 per missing/broken alarm.
Unusual odors: If deemed caused by the tenant (pets, spills, left out food) damage will be charged on a time and materials basis.
Lost/damaged Keys $40 per key
Thelpa.com, a landlord protection agency has a great settlement charges guide, as well as a ton of other free landlord forms.
I also created the next document to give tenants as a map to work toward getting as much of their security deposit back as possible.
Hints for getting your security deposit back.
We take photos for our files before and after you move, so we do know what was there before you moved in. Anything unusual or excessive should have been noted on the move-in/move out form. These will be the two major things we use for comparison to determine what charges to apply.
Let us know of any items that need to be repaired or taken care of before you move out. If we can plan for it, it will cost us, and you, less.
Leave all hardwood and vinyl floors in a broom swept condition. Vacuum and Shampoo all carpets.
Use 409 or other cleaner to remove any stains or marks from walls. Check heavy use areas such as switch plates and cupboard handles.
Open a couple boxes of baking soda and put it in the refrigerator and freezer.
If you know you have marks that will need to be touched up, ask us for some paint. In most cases we have the color on record and can provide you with a small amount to touch up any marks.
If you would like to try to fix any holes in the walls, drywall patching compound can be bought in small inexpensive containers. You can save the expense of a putty knife by using an old plastic credit card or ID as a spreader. Just make sure you don’t make the problem worse by leaving a rough surface.
Switch plates and outlet covers are inexpensive; In the large chain stores you can buy a package of ten for under $5. If you have more than one that is damaged it may be worth your time to replace them yourself.
Vinegar and Newspaper works well to clean windows.
Make sure any utility bills, (especially water and sewer if you are responsibile for it) is up to date and paid. Providing us a copy of a last billing statement is a good way to help ensure quick return of your deposit.
Remember to return any loose items such as remote controls, keys, etc.
If you have a difficult stain or other damage you are trying to repair before we go through, call us, as we have seen a lot of situations and have many helpful hints for removing difficult stains and fixing items in a cost effective way.
Our focus is to turn over an apartment with minimal time in between. Any effort on your part to go the extra mile will be noted and taken into account when looking at what we need to withhold from your security deposit.
Both documents are given to the tenants as they move in and when they move out so they know what to expect.