I have moved out of a home I rented for >2 yrs.The landlord deducted $900 from my deposit.She states damage to carpets, lock, ceiling, wall. I took care of the property & received compliments from her-I have emails.The carpet was not new when I moved in & I cleaned upon leaving. I did not cause other damage. She is not responding to my email, phone calls or message regarding this. I gave proper notice in writing. She stated in her letter that she should have charged me for the entire last month. She agreed to me moving out mid month when I posed my moving details. I also have recent photos of the property as she requested them since she loved the way I kept the place. I'm wondering if I should hire an attorney over the $900 or file a claim in small claims court.
You’re not going to like this answer—but here goes:
You may or may not owe for carpet damage--depends on whether LL can show it was excessive relative to the default standard--normal wear and tear and/or what your lease agreement says about carpet cleaning.
You might have given proper notice, but paid a pro rata vice full monthly rent--depending on FL statutes (I am NOT a FL attorney) and what you can show in writing to prove you and the LL agreed to pro rata payment, you may or may not owe rent money to the LL.
Finally, depending on the damage the LL is claiming and whether she did or did not use FL's procedures for handling security deposits; you may or may not be able to recover some or part of the SD.
Depending on the degree of confidence you have, the documents and evidence you can produce, and your ability to tell a compelling, succinct, clear story-with a beginning, a middle, and an end, you could likely sue in small claims and win. If you aren’t confident, have a disorganized file of evidence and get lost in details, you could very likely lose.
Finally, if you weren’t confused enough—if the LL did fail to comport herself to Florida’s statues related to handling of your SD, or there are other factors related to the tenancy that you know about, but were unaware could mean something legally, you might be able to recover attorney fees and damages in addition to your SD. You won’t know that until you sit down with an attorney—that will likely cost you some money—though it might be worthwhile in the end.
I recommend you meet with a local LL-Tenant attorney—review all your facts, documents etc., and (1) get that attorney’s opinion on your ability and evidence to press the issue in small claims yourself and (2) See if that attorney can identify any other issues that may impact your success.
Best of luck.
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Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
Once you receive the LL's letter, you have only 15 days to get a letter objecting to it to her. Please do so immediately if you haven't already. Send it certified return receipt requested.
If you do proceed, you can go to small claims court and observe several hearings to see how things go.
Hiring an attorney and filing may cost you almost as much as the claim is worth. i'd suggest finding out when small claims court is and when eviction court is held and observing a few hearings of each. you may find that you want to represent yourself. you may find that it isn't worth is at all.
Having pictures of the subject matter is a good start. do you have pictures in general of the place? or pictures taken of the condition of the carpets, locks, walls, doors, etc.
Landlord / Tenant Lawyer
Was the letter claiming your security deposit provided within 30 days of your move out?
I provide a free 15 minute telephone consult for security deposit claims and eviction defense. No attorney-client relationship is created by answering questions in this public forum. If you wish to create an attorney-client relationship, you must contact me directly and sign a representation agreement. Answers are provided based on general ideas and an answer specific to your situation would require a review of all documents.