From the Forum – No security deposit, what can the landlord charge?

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No security deposit, what can the landlord charge?

“We moved into an apartment 3 years ago, and are planning to move out in a couple weeks. The landlord is going to do a walk through inspection, and I am curious if the landlord can charge us for things beyond wear and tear if there was never a security deposit collected. There is some fraying to the carpet, holes in the wall where we mounted a television, and a few dings here and there on the walls, but nothing really other than that.

I am a little nervous, as moves are expensive to begin with and I just want to get a grasp on what they can charge us for. I have heard some mixed info that carpets have to be replaced regardless between tenants and walls have to be repainted anyway, so can they charge for that?

I looked through the DC Tenant Survival Guide and most of this applies if you have a security deposit, and how to not get nickled and dimed, but this building never charged us a deposit. What really makes me nervous is that this building just changed ownership and is now managed by Bozzuto, one of the reasons we are leaving.

Any advice is welcome. Thanks!”

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14 Comment

  • I don’t think carpets HAVE to be changed, although it would be nice. Walls are usually painted. I’d say normal wear and tear is normal. I’ve lived in a couple places for 4 years and 5 years and was terrified of what they’d think at the end of my stays there (having a pet). I got all my security deposits back (plus the interest). Some LLs are scammers though and will not give deposits back, but it’d be crazy of them to charge you. What kind of LL doesn’t take security deposit in the first place? I’d just clean and patch up those holes with spackle to the best your ability. I mean that is all you can do right?

    In the future, I was also always told you should take pics upon move in, and take pics upon move out.

  • First question is what does your lease say. Assuming nothing, your landlords can “charge” you all they want. You can always refuse to pay and make them take you to court to recover it. (This also gives you quite a bit of leverage to negotiate a lower “bill” from them.)

  • I don’t think the collection of a security deposit has any bearing on your liability for damages beyond wear and tear. Why should the lack of a security deposit force a landlord have to pay for damages caused by tenants? This is precisely why security deposits are collected to begin with.

  • I agree that you should just patch the holes yourself to save yourself the possible headache. If there really is little to no other damage, you should be fine.

    • I think you need to chill. No reasonable landlord is going to hit you up for cash after three years unless you’ve really made a mess of the place, which it doesn’t sound like you have. Looking at this from the oter side, you’ve saved the landlord money by staying as long as you have. Less turnover means less money spent getting the place ready to rent between tenants.

      • I agree, no reasonable landlord would charge you for a few nail holes or scuff marks on the baseboards. But OP mentioned Bozzuto, so that adjective goes out the window.

  • If the landlord does want to charge you for damages – rightly or wrongly – can they take you to collections and put bad things on your credit report? That’s probably what would scare me the most.

    • I’m not a lawyer or a landlord, but from my basic knowledge of credit reporting and consumer issues, my guess is that in order to go to collections and report to the credit bureau, the landlord would need to at least take the tenant to court for the damages and obtain a judgment. Without that, the landlord has no mechanism for sending a tenant’s account to a collection agency; it’s not like credit, where you borrow X amount and agree to pay it back and then don’t. (Even if you defaulted on rent, the landlord would still need to go to court and obtain a judgment.) IF it got that far with the courts, and IF the landlord prevailed, the tenant would be wise to pay the judgment, as those can report to the credit bureaus (although they don’t always show up on a credit report), in a separate section from consumer debt. You can add a consumer statement telling your side of the story to an adverse item on your credit report, but that doesn’t erase the item (and I’m guessing that it wouldn’t be very compelling, if a court already validated the other party’s claim). I’m not sure about DC, but I believe in some jurisdictions’ housing courts, you can also ask if the judge will agree to expunge the record and not have it report to the bureaus, once you’ve paid the judgment.

    • The landlord would first have to get a judgment, which you then would have to not pay, before they’d have anything to report or send to collections, for that matter. That would require going to court. Given what OP described, I doubt anybody would take the trouble to get that judgment. If OP is really that worried about it, if the landlord claims damages, try to negotiate it in cash for 20 cents on the dollar, secure a full release that is signed by the landlord, and move on.

  • They can charge whatever the lease says they can charge – probably something to the effect of any damages that are not deemed to be normal wear and tear. Whether they collected a security deposit or not is irrelevant. The purpose of a security deposit is just to make it easier for a landlord to get money from you for any damages – they don’t want to have to get it from you after you move out and they have no leverage, other than going to court. A security deposit isn’t a cap on what you might owe for damages. If you have a $1500 security deposit and move out and there’s $2500 in damages, the landlord can still go after you for $1000 after keeping your deposit.

  • As a practical matter, this landlord can’t really charge you anything. Even if the damage is worse than normal wear and tear, the reason you collect a deposit at the beginning of the lease term is because there’s no remedy other than the sledgehammer of going to court and getting a judgment, which is a terrible solution for the landlord. Minor issues with an apartment at the end of a lease term aren’t something to be concerned about. I don’t recommend screwing your landlord, but there’s really no need to pay any money for hanging a TV or wearing out a carpet.

  • I am a landlord so I will start with that. As for your deposit, that was goofy of them not to collect on but with that it won’t stop them from going to court over damages. As for you responsibility, patch the holes in the wall from the tv and pictures if your really concerned about the carpet rent one of those carpet cleaners and have it cleaned. If the place really isn’t more then normal wear and tear you shouldn’t have any problem from the landlord if they are a reasonable person. I don’t blame you for moving due to Buzzuto.

  • I’ve managed apartments in DC, and know that anything beyond normal wear and tear is billable by a former Landlord; Normal wear and tear most certainly includes consideration of the length of residency, and most certainly considers any abnormal painting requirement, e.g, if a landlord has to apply a primer type prior to painting due to tape residue, filling holes beyond the size of normal picture hanging holes; routine carpet cleaning/shampooing, (the age of the carpet, as you cant be billed for new carpet, if it wont new at move in, unless you caused the carpet such severe damage that the only choice is replacing the carpet;
    You should read your lease re any move out requirements such as some leases require you to have the carpet cleaned and present a copy of the receipt to the former landlord; READ your lease looking for any requirements for move out, AND if your landlord states you don’t have to, then get it in writing, and if not provided in writing, then write your landlord confirming any verbal conversation you had about move out;

    DC requires a landlord to present charges within 30 days of move out, and such charges should be itemized.

    AGAIN, read your lease!

  • I also thought that walls were always painted, and that carpets were replaced after 3 years, but don’t know if that was management policy or DC policy (seems that this is what the OP was asking for, not generic advice). THAT SAID, I would like to be a snark and offer my own: I’d suggest emailing management, especially HQ or higher ups as opposed to the person doing your walk through, and tell that your understanding is XYZ, you plan to patch any holes in the walls (say “any” to make it clear that you might not have any) and leave the carpet uncleaned, and make sure that’s OK. Especially since you don’t have a deposit, I think they’ll appreciate the gesture/formality and then you can always show it to the person doing the walk through if they’re a jerk.

    Maybe say something like – I’m reaching out to clarify because I’ve heard of a lot of people having misunderstandings with Bozzuto management? Maybe they’ll be sensitive to that and more likely to help.

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