Details are that after a few weeks from moving out, I got a bill from my apartment company charging me an extra 400 dollars on top of my deposit for a repaint. On the cleaning report, its reported that "Walls should be washed" but instead, they were repainted entirely, and we were charged to full cost. The company has no pictures the prove the walls were damaged, and the ones I have are taken a month prior to move out. I have since contacted help in my own state, and all of them cant speak much for rules in WA, but seem to say the charges are bogus. Can my apartment company charge me for this repaint? Not only charge, but take extra from me after I moved out in May? If more details are needed, dont hesitate to ask. Thanks in advance for the help.The initial deposit was 600 dollars. The walls were not damaged, maybe slightly discolored from having lived in the apartment for a year, and maybe some pinholes from hanging posters, aside from that, there is no damage that I could imagine being done. I left the apartment with the walls having been scrubbed with a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (after I got permission to clean them) and with some thumbtack holes from hanging posters, aside from that, nothing else was done to the walls.
The landlord can charge the tenant for the cost of repairing damage. But that isn't a complete blank check to simply invent charges. If the walls were damaged during your tenancy, then arguably the only way possible to restore the previous condition would be to paint. Noticeably missing from your fact pattern is any suggestion that you damaged the walls - that you dinged them or drilled holes in them or let your kids smear crayons all over them. In the absence of any evidence of damage, then the notation that the walls needed to be washed is not unreasonable. How long did you live there? If the answer is ten months, then you *might* be more responsible than if you lived there for ten years. After a lengthy tenancy, it is not unreasonable that the walls would require repainting to attract a new tenant. This is not your responsibility, it is the landlords.
It is always the landlord's duty to have a walk through checklist from the beginning of the tenancy to compare with the same document at the end of the tenancy. If you did not damage the walls, then you are not responsible to pay for painting them. See RCW 59 18 260.
RCW 59 18 280 covers the return of deposits. The last sentence says, "nothing shall interfere with the landlord's ability to go after the tenant for damage done to the property", but really, if that were the case, RCW 59 18 260 and 270 and the balance of 280 are completely superfluous, and the Court always presumes statutes are read so as to give effect to the entire statutory scheme.
This is a long-winded way of saying that you have to choose this battle carefully. The burden of proof is on your landlord, not you. But you can certainly take them to small claims to recover TWICE your deposit, your court fees and even your reasonable attorney fees.
I have a couple of legal guides on this subject attached to my profile. Hope this helps.
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