Deposit disputes are dreaded events. They are not always, but most of the time they are. If you always bet it not to be true when you hear a tenant say “the house is in better shape that when we moved in”, you will come out a winner on your betting overall. In fact, when I hear this statement, I believe it is almost guaranteed that the house will be in much worse shape than when the tenant moved in. People, who do right, never have to say anything about their doing right. They just let their actions speak.
The key to settling deposit disputes is documentation. It starts with having a house cleaned using professional companies, with paid invoices on-file for house cleaning, carpet cleaning, painting and any other thing that was done to the property to make the house ready. Support all of that with 300 or more digital photos of a house condition, before a tenant moves in, and generate a written report for the file on top of that.
It is going to happen. As soon as a deduction is made for damage, a call will come from an angry tenant. When it does, ask them to come to your office and go over the file photos and invoices with you. Ask them to bring the supporting documentation of their claim that you have been unfair to make deductions, and you will never see them darken your door way.
If you get a letter from their friend who is an attorney, remember they may be using his letterhead. The tenants are most often trying scare tactics in this case. If it scares you, it may be a clue that you haven’t done your job. But if you have, don’t send the attorney any of your photos. Simply write a letter telling him what you have to offer (should you meet in court), but don’t mention the word court. Just succinctly outline your evidence in words and leave it at that. If you have done your job from the onset, settling the dispute should be easy.
Never answer an angry word with an angry word in a deposit dispute. It never helps.
Until next time,