Tenant rights: Our landlord is pulling our security deposit over an email

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Topic: Tenant rights: Our landlord is pulling our security deposit over an email

Real Estate July 11, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Tenant rights: Our landlord is pulling our security deposit over an email

Our landlord recently told me he’s pulling our security deposit. The short version of the exchange is that he told us there will be prolonged construction on our unit. I asked for a rent adjustment accordingly for the period of construction. He said no, I said I would send him an estimate. Nothing more. He concluded with “I’m pulling the security deposit.”
Below is the exchange in detail for any interested in reading it. Basically I’m wondering does he have the right to do this and what repurcussions are available to me.
Tenant A
Description: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/images/cleardot.gif

On Wed, Jul 11, 2012 at 6:21 PM, XXXXXXXManagement<[email protected]> wrote:
Tenant A,

Please note that we will deduct any balance from your security deposit when you move out of the unit.


Landlord F
On Wed, Jul 11, 2012 at 6:19 PM, Tenant A <[email protected]> wrote:
Landlord F,
We will send you what we think is appropriate at the end of construction.

Sent from mobile device

On Jul 11, 2012, at 6:16 PM, XXXXXXXManagement <[email protected]> wrote:
Tenant A,

Unfortunatley, there will be no adjustments towards your rent to upgrade your unit.  


Landlord F
On Wed, Jul 11, 2012 at 6:09 PM, Tenant A<[email protected]> wrote:
Landlord F, 
It is standard practice when there is substantial construction work being done on the apartment to receive an adjustment in rent for the period of the work for the disruption. When work is complete we will send our estimate based on the time taken.
All the best, 
Tenant A

Sent from mobile device

On Jul 11, 2012, at 5:22 PM, XXXXXXXManagement <[email protected]> wrote:

The contractors will be back tomorrow and most likely until the end of the next week to frame the duct work and to wire the unit.  In addition, they will mud, sand and fix any drywall damage from the air duct installation.  Once again, I want to thank you guys for your understanding and cooperation.

I will let you know when the contractor is scheduled to install the electric panel.  We will need to clear out the bedroom closet to the left of the kitchen the day we install the electric panel.


Landlord F  
On Mon, Jul 9, 2012 at 2:44 PM, XXXXXXXManagement <[email protected]>wrote:

We will install the air ducts for the HVAC system this Wednesday and Thursday. To facilitate the HVAC technicians in the installation of air ducts, we ask that you please remove your personal belongings and furniture within or alongside the following:
-The closet in the hallway
-The closet in the bedroom to the right of the kitchen
-The walls adjacent to this closet (especially the one that runs parallel to the long entrancehallway)
-The wall opposite the fireplace in the living room
-The wall in the bedroom to the left of the kitchen, which runs along the living room
The air ducts will be exposed and we will cover it with drywall a week or two after the installation.  In addition, the electrician will wire the unit a few days after the air ducts are complete and install an electric panel next to the hallway closet.  I will let you guys know exactly when we will be back to cover the air ducts and to wire the unit.   Finally, we will need to enter your unit again in a few weeks to install the air handler inside of your closet. Please understand in construction, the work may take a day or two longer than expected.  We want to thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation.  

We will have a cleaning crew who will clean up every time the contractors are in your unit.

Washington, DC 20009


9 Replies Add Reply

I don’t have any advice to offer on the tenant-law side of things, but I’m not certain that the landlord’s final e-mail means what you think it means.
To me, “Please note that we will deduct any balance from your security deposit when you move out of the unit.” sounds like “If you withhold rent on your own initiative, I will take it out of your security deposit.”
I would respond by saying, “I don’t understand.  Please clarify.”
You might still want assistance on the tenant-law side of things, but first I’d get the landlord to clarify what he means.

Generally, a landlord is NOT required to compensate tenants for work in their apartments that does not *require* the tenant relocate in order for it to be performed, or that does not involve a reduction of a mandatory or stipulated service.  Going by the description of work being done, it doesn’t seem to justify a reduction.  Not only would the landlord be entitled to take any monies owed out of the security but they could also initiate eviction for non-payment of rent.
If this has not prevented you from being able to use your apartment and is just an inconvenience, my advice is to just pay your rent and apologize for the misunderstanding.

the management company is upgrading your unit with A/C, and you want a rent deduct??  your sense of self-entitlement is stunning…..

You’re getting HVAC installed and you want a reduction in your rent for the month due to the work that has to be done to have said HVAC installed?  Shouldn’t you be thanking your landlord and not trying to weasel out of paying rent?

I agree with the others that 1) the work done does not, in my opionin, justify a rent reduction and that 2) your landlord isn’t taking your security deposit–he’s just saying that if you don’t pay your full rent, the different will be deducted from the deposit.
I also think your emails are a bit demanding and not very tactful (unless I guess you used to have a different landlord for the same apartment who did give you reductions?). Rather than saying “Would you consider a rent reduction?” you’re just basically demanding he give you whatever discount you decide you want. Not even a please or thank you?

It’s called Warranty of Habitability, and bottom line, if it does not lessen your safety, habitability, or liveability in a measureable way, you are owed nothing.

You’re sending an estimate based on what? what you think you are owed for upgrades? Wow. Get over yourself and stop being an entitled brat of a tenant.

“I asked for a rent adjustment accordingly for the period of construction.”
“I’m pulling the security deposit.”
From the email thread, neither of these things happened. Your landlord is being perfectly reasonable, lawful, and polite. You are being unreasonable, outright stating you are not going to abide by your lease agreement by withholding rent, and were not polite. Perhaps if you’d approached the issue more professionally you may have been granted a deduction, but in all honesty you were out of bounds on this one. And you certainly don’t get to make up random rent payments based on what you think is “appropriate.”

It’s one thing to ask respectfully but to state that you are going to send an estimate of what you think you are owed after the construction is just egregious. I would be floored by that wording. Your relationship with this landlord is surely now soured, if it wasn’t already. I would just drop it, pay the normal rent and enjoy the thousands of dollars worth of upgrades that you just got to your apartment.

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