Is this legal for a landlord to do?!?!

By Jessica

To give some background info:

My husband, and I moved into a rental home in April 2010. The owners/landlords of this home had not seen the house in three years since they moved to Arizona. They hired a realtor to find renters but once the renter moves in, they take over. With a new baby, we were very busy trying to get everything set up in the house. A few months after we moved in, I heard a scratching sound as I walked through the hallway. I swore I kept hearing this light scratching sound, and told my husband to check it out. I knew there was going to be a squirrel or mice in the walls. He was not able to see from the attic down in between the walls. The next day, it smelt like death in the hallway. We email the landlords to let them know that something has in fact died in the walls. They tell us that pest control is our problem, and we need to have the pest control company come out to retrieve the dead animals on our dime. I know that it is not mandatory for the landlord to cover pest control in the state of Florida. Well, there was no way anyone could get to the dead animals in the wall because of where it was located. So we cut a hole in a wall (in two different rooms), and found multiple families of mice that had died. Thankfully my husband is quite the handyman, and he replaced the drywall, patched the wall so you could not even tell anything had been done. Well in one of the rooms there was 30 year old wallpaper that could not be matched. So we paid for a wallpaper steamer, and had pealed every last piece of wallpaper off. We repainted the room with Killz, and then painted a neutral color that had been approved by the owners. We did not seek any reimbursement for this since we were told it was our responsibility. Well mice kept getting in, so we called their on call handyman over to try to help us figure out where all the mice were coming from.

The handyman saw that the front gable of the house was sinking, and the roof over the front porch was sinking as well. The handyman went up on the roof, and found many soft spots and concluded that the roof had to be redone. The owners did get the roof redone pretty quickly. With the front gable, etc needing to be redone this is what caused the mice to be able to come inside the house.

While the roofers were working on the house, the owner of the roofing company happened to be their friend. He had told the owners that the back yard had good amount of weeds in it, and some branches down that needed to be cut up. We have pictures of the yard showing that it was one branch, and that the yard was not bad looking. The owners didn’t care, they decided to send a lawn company over to "winterize" the yard. Then deciding to bill us for this, which I in turn told them they would not get the money because there was no reason to have this done in the first place, they never asked us to clean it up more, and we didn’t have that kind of money laying around.

Next, the center of the garage door started to sink/cave in while it was going up or coming back down. We told the owners, and with it taking them so long to get it fixed, the metal started tearing in some spots. They blamed us, and said it looked like we hung something from the garage door and/or backed into it. The handyman could plainly see that this was not the case. Eventually, a garage door company came out and assessed the situation which they claimed was because the garage door was simply not up to date. It needed metal bars that went across to prevent the sagging. That was fixed, and the owners paid it.

Finally, it came time for us to move the heck outta there!!! Well, they found new renters that asked if we could move out a week earlier than intended. We agreed, as well as the owners that they would refund us one week of rent which is $294.00. On May-24-2011 we did the final walk through with the realtor, and successfully passed the inspection. I had steam cleaned the carpets, and went above and beyond to please these picky grumpy elderly owners. The realtor knew how much work we went through to make the house look immaculent since it was an older house. The realtor took pictures as we did, and we both left at the same time. The realtor had later sent me the walk through form that had stated we never used the irrigation since we found it broken with low flow after we moved in. The kitchen sink had a slow leak. The extra drywall, Killz, paint, etc could be found in the garage.

Two weeks later I get an email from the realtor stating that the owners were going to hold our deposit because they stated the irrigation worked just fine before we moved in. They were holding a $1,300.00 security deposit plus the $294.00 of the supposed to be refunded one week of rent. They stated there was a cracked window as well that needed to be replaced. Right before their time was up to send their list of itemized deductions, they sent their list stating:
* $200 to pay the handyman for trying to snake a drain for 4 hours
* $348.00 to pay for Roter Rooter to clear a clogged drain
* $200.00 to pay for Brandon Septic to clear, and pump their septic tank
* $150.00 to pay the handyman for hanging around with Roter Rooter & Brandon Septic
* $75.00 for time, killz, paint to repair drywall stain
* $244.97 for a cracked glass window
* $50.00 for handyman’s time
* $133.00 for new laundry room sink
Total $1400.97
So they decucted from our $294.00 check that was supposed to be refunded to us for the vacated week. They sent us a check of $192.57.

Is this legal? Everything was in great working order, as their realtor even noted. We feel that they are trying to use our security deposit for normal maitanance repairs. Help please!! (Also, the new renters moved in right after we left so by the owners keeping our one week rent seems like they double rented.)

Edited on: Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 8:23 am

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