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  1. #1
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Default Landlord Problem

    If you sell someone something, is it legal for them to withhold payment to apply it toward an (alleged) separate debt?

    The situation is that I recently moved out of my DeLand, Florida rental. I'd only paid last month's rent when I moved in so the landlord wasn't holding a security deposit. He offered to purchase a washer/dryer set I'd bought from the previous tenant for $400, to help make the place more desirable as a rental.

    He was supposed to send a check down with his wife the day I moved out, as he lives in New Hampshire. She came down, but said she had no check and said she thought I was leaving later, even though I'd emailed him that I'd be leaving on the 12th. After I cleaned up the house, he began claiming that I'd left the place a mess and that it would cost hundreds of dollars to fix up. This wasn't true and I believe he was just claiming this in order to get out of paying me for the washer and dryer. I told him I'd taken pictures of everything that showed it was left in a good condition. Then, he began saying there was cat pee everywhere and fleas and that the carpet would have to be pulled up. He also started blaming me for damages that had been left by previous tenants.

    I guess the aspect of who did what and what was actually done are endlessly debatable issues. But the larger question is, is it legal for him to withhold payment for the washer and dryer as a de facto security deposit by claiming these other damages? Is there a legal term for keeping each issue separate? I'd offered to take $100 off the $400 selling price as a measure of good faith for any damages, but he sounds like he's greedy and that it's not enough.

    I don't think he ever intended to pay for them at all. He began claiming things were filthy before his wife had even seen the things in question, and he didn't send a check down with her as he'd claimed. What recourses do I have and what protection does the law offer in this regard? Is it his burden to prove I did the damages, or mine to prove I didn't? He's in New Hampshire, the place is in Florida, and I'm in California!

    I'd been counting on that $400 and now it looks like he's not planning to send me anything!

  2. #2
    rk
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    Senior Member rk's Avatar
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    I suppose the question you are asking (or should he asking) is: how can you get your money back?

    My advice would be to work with the landlord as best as you can to get as much of it back as you can. You can start with a reasonable and friendly approach, and if that doesn't work, say that you plan to complain to local govt. agencies, rental board, BBB, State consumer protection agency, etc.

    Failing that, the next thing you can do is to file a claim in Small Claims Court. This has to be done in the county where the problem occurred, so if you are in California for an extended time it may not be practical. Due to the relatively small amounts involved, you will want to represent yourself. Standards of proof are lax in small claims, so documentation will be your friend. Even written notes of phone conversations are useful, if compiled in a timely and accurate manner.

    Note that if you win your case, the court will not collect the money for you.

    Some links:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Small_claims_court
    http://www.flcourts.org/gen_public/f...llclaims.shtml

    Good luck.

    Disclaimer: I am not a legal expert (or any other kind, for that matter).

  3. #3
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    Aw Doug that's awful, I'm so sorry.

    I am going through a similar problem, my landlord hasn't returned my security deposit AT ALL and has dropped off the face of the earth, he won't respond to e-mails, phone calls... and he's in Ohio. I have no idea what to do either, but have been advised to go to the small claims court to get my money back. This is also what rk said to do.

    Yours is a slightly different issue to mine though. Has he put in writing about the deduction in the required 15 days to tell you he is deducting money from your security? If you have photos of how the house was left, that will help you. And do you have anything in writing about the $400 being paid for by him?

    Why do all landlords set out to scam people. It's so unfair :-/

  4. #4
    Member sungal's Avatar
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    That stinks Doug.

    My friend in NJ recently moved out of her apartment. The place was completely renovated when she moved in. The new shower rod came crashing down and scratched the ceramic tub (one inch). The landlord is keeping her whole, one and half month security deposit saying he needs to have tub re-glazed for $600. She did give only 20 days notice to move, when she was supposed to give 30. So instead of admitting the tub scratch was from the faulty shower rod installation and pro-rating the days for short notice, he's keeping the entire deposit, so over $2200. Once the landlord has your money in their hands, they can really say anything. If there's a broken tile on the backsplash, instead of replacing it, they can say, "Oh, I need to replace all the tile. That will be over $600." They can really make up any price.

    I wrote a scathing, threatening letter on her behalf..he offered to return $600 but keep the rest because of late notice..she's looking for a real estate attorney who doesn't bill by the hour.

    Doug, you should send him a certified letter, with photos printed out. In the letter say, "As per our conversation on Sept 1., in which you agreed to purchase the washer and dryer from me, I, in good faith, left it in the apartment and have not not recieved payment. Please remit to Doug at ...." Sometimes something certified shakes people up a bit.

    In the letter I would then say you will pay for a professional cleaning, not to exceed $100, or whatever the going rate is in Deland.

    Good luck! It really won't be worth taking him to court for $300. But you could always say you plan to.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Thanks, everyone, for your suggestions. It's not really possible for me to take him to small claims court in Florida right now, and after I pointed out to him that he began criticizing my clean-up efforts before his wife had seen the things he was complaining about and quoted his email to him in which he said he'd be sending a check down, he stopped replying.

    I suppose my next effort is to write a scatching review about him online so I can help other people avoid the same experience. His name, by the way, is Gordon Tibbets, dba Tibbets Properties, in Florida and New Hampshire.

  6. #6
    rk
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    It may be one of those cases where you have to live and learn, I am afraid, but persistence cannot hurt. I would keep pestering the people involved with emails and letters for a while.

    The Florida Attorney General's office does have an online complaint form you can file:

    http://myfloridalegal.com/pages.nsf/...256cc600706904

    Note the correct spelling is Gordon Tibbetts. This small detail will make it easier for others to find your comments. Their web site is http://tibbettsproperties.com/

  7. #7
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    oops! How quickly I forget! You're right. Thanks for the info, rk!

  8. #8
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    I'm sorry, Doug, this sucks!

    I would say that because the property is in FL, FL rental laws apply. Here's info on that:

    http://www.floridapirg.org/edfund/re...ights-handbook

    At the very least, I'd file a complaint against him and his company. It may not get you your money, but it will be on record against him.

  9. #9
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    I'm really sorry about this Doug. If anything, hopefully it will serve as a lesson for others. I would be wary of purchasing something for a property that is not mine. I would demand to be reimbursed right away.

    He is being incredibly dishonest after you acted in good faith and took good care of the house, which I saw with my own eyes at the end of July. There were no fleas in your place!

    In my last apt, I did not hand over the keys until I had half my deposit back in cash. But my landlord was a good person and paid me the other half in cash two weeks later.

  10. #10
    Member sungal's Avatar
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    I did reasearch myself but at this point I'm just so upset and exhausted and I don't know what do. Does anyone know anything about what you can do if your landlord is aware that you have a dog, and you signed a lease where the box was checked off saying "pets not permitted"? There was one tenant-friendly law I found, but it didn't pertain to Fl.

  11. #11
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Sungal, did your landlord threaten to evict you or something?

  12. #12
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    A friend recently told me that you can often declare your pet as a companion animal, needed for a physical or psychological condition. Landlords will often give in at that point because they would be at risk being sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. A doctor's note might suffice as proof of a disability.

  13. #13
    Member sungal's Avatar
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    :long: Worse than threaten to evict me, he wants my dog out by Wednesday, and suggested a kennel or shipping her "back to NJ." So basically she has to live in a disgusting kennel with barking dogs (barking dogs at the groomer even bother her), or I'm supoposed to put her in cargo back to NJ, as if there is someone else to take care of her. I'm her only parent.

    Doug, I really like that idea. She obviously does provide me with companionship, and maybe I'm distrought since my break-up.. I actually am very upset now, but about the dog situation.

    I aked the landlord and his partner if we could do an addendum to the by laws. He's checking in on an apt on the pet-friendly first floor of my building, but it's owned by people who live out of the country, and I'm not sure he has the contact info.

    His partner just stopped by to make sure something wasn't leaking..my fav downstairs neighbor complaining yet again, and he told me about an available apt on 8th and Euclid. I think he's going to start showing me things and suddenly I'm going to wipe out my bank account with 3 month security for a new place, while they have my sec and last month's rent.

    But let's say I found something for the end of my lease as opposed to now (I really don't have the money for double rent), would he be able to get rid of GIngie or me before my lease is up?

  14. #14
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    Jeez, what is it with all of us? Doug's landlord has run off with his money, my landlord has run off with mine (4 figures btw :-/ ) and now Sungal is being evicted!??

    Gus, Michelle... we're moving in with you!!!

  15. #15
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Perhaps the economy or simple economyphobia has borderline people resorting to more dishonest acts.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Doug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jess
    Aw Doug that's awful, I'm so sorry.

    I am going through a similar problem, my landlord hasn't returned my security deposit AT ALL and has dropped off the face of the earth, he won't respond to e-mails, phone calls... and he's in Ohio. I have no idea what to do either, but have been advised to go to the small claims court to get my money back. This is also what rk said to do.

    Yours is a slightly different issue to mine though. Has he put in writing about the deduction in the required 15 days to tell you he is deducting money from your security? If you have photos of how the house was left, that will help you. And do you have anything in writing about the $400 being paid for by him?

    Why do all landlords set out to scam people. It's so unfair :-/
    Jess, sorry to hear about your security deposit problem. You should prevail in small claims court. You have the benefit of being in Florida, at least...If takes more than a certain amount of time to refund the deposit, I believe they eventually start penalizing him the amount of the deposit for every day that he doesn't pay it. I think....don't quote me.

    The thing is, I didn't leave a security deposit with him, just last month's rent, which I applied to my final month as per the lease. He's trying to use the money he owes me as leverage in lieu of a security deposit, but I don't believe he's allowed to withhold that even if I did cause damage to his place, because it's not intended to be used against damages. He hasn't tried to link the two together yet -- he's just making all these exaggerated or completely untrue claims while not paying me the money he owes me. I think he's hoping I'll go away and forget about it.

  17. #17
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Sungal, my friend has a great studio on 15th and Euclid for $800/month year-lease or $850 for 6 months. It is a nicely landscaped building, 1st floor. Unfurnished, but has a murphy bed. It is laid out like a small 1 bedroom, with separate kitchen space, huge closet and decent sized bathroom. It is in a great location. I'd move in there myself if I were ready to move and wanted to go back to the beach. And my friend is a super nice guy - a very honest person. He only moved out because he got married and they brought a house.

    He simply needs a clean and reliable tenant, which of course you are. If you're interested, send me a PM and I'll put you in touch.

  18. #18
    Member Maria de los Angeles's Avatar
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    Doug, there's a word for that kind of person but I dare not use it here! It seems pretty clear that's what he's doing. Oy.

  19. #19
    Member sungal's Avatar
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    Thanks Maria. I don't want to do ground floor..I think a high floor is safer. I think I am ready for somewhere new but I hate looking and worse, writing big checks.
    I just don't know how a 17 lb furball is such a problem to evil condo board members who don't even live here. What pisses me off most is my landlord is not taking my case to the board. If I move now, he gets 1.5 months rent with no tenant, plus his partner makes money by renting me something.

    People always say..oh, having a dog is so much work, so expensive. It's only that way because there are people who discriminate against dogs and just make things difficult. Since when is owning a dog such a crime? I feel like I'm harboring a fugitive. Tomorrow she's officially supposed to be elsewhere.

    This totally sucks. I'm stressed about moving and the expense of putting down 3 months and losing one month here, plus I'm either in my apt with the dog, or walking wherever I have to go with her. I think I just have to leave her on her own and hope there's no barking or whimpering.

  20. #20
    Travel Advisor fredgarvin's Avatar
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    As an outsider, this is the kind of situation that (along with Doug's), that is totally frustrating and anger provoking.

    I hope giving written moral support with the wish I could do something more tangible is helpful!

    If you guys can think of something else, before I come visiting October 15, please tell me!

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