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Please help - Landlord TRICKED me out of my deposit!

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Please help - Landlord TRICKED me out of my deposit!

Postby evill1 » Wed Aug 21, 2013 12:20 pm

I am an idiot. Let me start out by acknowledging that. I moved out of a 3-unit row-house in Brooklyn on August 5th, and instead of refusing to pay for the final month - like you do - and telling the landlord to take it out of my deposit, I paid in full for August, and trusted that he would return my deposit. (I had taken excellent care of the place - despite the fact that the house is so decrepit it was literally falling down around me, e.g., dining room ceiling caved in last February.)

I told the landlord - who lived in the unit below - that I would return the following Saturday to finish putting the place in order. Again, I had paid for the entire month so I reasonably expected to have more than ample time to address anything that may have genuinely needed addressing.

Landlord called me that night, thanked me for being an "excellent tenant," and said he had already "inspected the unit." He told me there was "no need" for me to return - accepting the apartment in the condition it was in on the 5th. (I had already cleaned much of it while the movers were doing their thing - I am a total neat freak - so I didn't question this.) Landlord only asked that I send him an email formally and immediately vacating the apartment so he could give his new tenant the keys early. He said if I did this, he would immediately return my deposit. He put this in writing in several follow-up text messages. (I was busy unpacking, and so did not immediately send the requested email - I had planned to do it the next day, but he hounded me via text messages after 11PM until I stopped what I was doing, composed the email, and sent it.)

Then - that JERK! - he turned around and kept 55% of the deposit, and for total B.S. things, e.g., cable box rental (despite the fact that cable was part of my rent, which I paid in full); replacement of toilet seat (not because the one I left was broken, but because he didn't like the color - which he put in writing!); repair of a threshold plate at the house's front door that had been broken the entire time I lived there; et al.

Even if there was damage to the unit that went beyond the reasonable wear and tear standard - which there was not! - I maintain that the landlord's deception ALONE requires the return of the full deposit. A landlord may not TRICK a tenant into relinquishing his right to return and address anything that may need addressing as a means to cheat him out of his deposit, correct?

After all, he induced me under false pretenses into sending him that email formally vacating the unit early - while praising me for being an extraordinary tenant, and assuring me that there was no need for me to return. And also promising that this would allow him to expedite the return of my deposit - he put this in writing in his text messages.

What can I do to compel him to return the balance of my deposit?

Thanks in advance for any advice/thoughts!
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Postby TenantNet » Wed Aug 21, 2013 1:45 pm

Did you pay through the end of August? If so, in our opinion, the place might be still yours. Did you hand the keys over to the LL?
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Postby evill1 » Wed Aug 21, 2013 2:21 pm

I did but he reimbursed me for the second half of the month in order to gain early access for his new tenant. After the 15th, the apartment was no longer mine. That was 10 days after he told me there was no need for me to return - that no further work was required. Yes, I have returned the keys.
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Postby TenantNet » Wed Aug 21, 2013 3:56 pm

on ce you've returned the keys, that's when you returned possession. The email you wrote does have significance, but in returning the keys, that's the actual transfer of possession. Did you get a receipt for the keys? A favorite LL trick is to claim they didn't get the keys.

Given that, your options are to go to the Attorney General's office, or to file in Small Claims Court (or both).
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Re: Please help - Landlord TRICKED me out of my deposit!

Postby Cranky Tenant » Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:08 pm

evill1 wrote:Then - that JERK! - he turned around and kept 55% of the deposit, and for total B.S. things, e.g., cable box rental (despite the fact that cable was part of my rent, which I paid in full); replacement of toilet seat (not because the one I left was broken, but because he didn't like the color - which he put in writing!); repair of a threshold plate at the house's front door that had been broken the entire time I lived there; et al.


As far as I know, the cable box is the property of the cable company, Time Warner or whoever you have in that neighborhood, and I'm not so sure the LL has the authority to sub-lease it. Did he give you a choice between standard def and HD? Did he offer you a DVR? If it needed replacement would he run it over to the cable office an swap it for another one? And if he's charging you for the cable box did he also charge you for cable? Internet?
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Postby evill1 » Wed Aug 21, 2013 5:19 pm

Which is better - in your opinion? Small Claims Court or Attorney General? I figured I'd have to do one or the other, but I've read that if you do both simultaneously, the AG won't help you.

re: cable. It had been a mother/daughter situation for years, so the unit wasn't wired for separate cable. It was part of the deal - but a shady part insofar as the provider thought it was all one home. They did give me my choice of boxes/channels for a while, then started making unilateral changes - e.g., dropping Showtime without telling me and without offering to let me pay 15 less per month (or whatever that channel costs - I forget).

I had been saving up episodes of Homeland Season 2, actually - and when I finally had time to watch them, got to a PIVOTAL episode, and suddenly the DVR recording was an hour of "to purchase this channel..." Honestly, one of the first things I did in the new place was catch up on demand.
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Postby Cranky Tenant » Thu Aug 22, 2013 2:23 am

I pay $5 a month for Showtime because I called Time Warner and was able to negotiate a lower rate as part of a package deal. Not only did your landlord deprive you of the ability to take advantage of promotions but it sounds like you're paying his cable bill, and maybe a little extra beyond that. Time Warner charges something like $8/month for an extra box but they don't charge extra for premium channels watched through additional boxes. There's also no extra fee if you watch on an ipad or HBOGo on a Roku This sounds like what Time Warner would call "stealing cable" and I doubt the LL would be able to recover this cost in court.
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Postby Emeraldstar » Fri Aug 23, 2013 9:45 am

Hi All

My take....I would end up in the AG"s office as well as filing a complaint with FCC. Cranky raises very good points
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Postby TenantNet » Fri Aug 23, 2013 11:08 am

Why the FCC?
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Postby Emeraldstar » Fri Aug 23, 2013 10:40 pm

Hi All
TN, I was thinking big picture & a private LL scam to rope people in for an extra few pennies emeshed in with the rent. An LL controls it & removes whatever yet offers no reduction is just wrong. Who knows how widespread & how many people that is being done to? I'm of the belief that it can't hurt as well as letting cabel co's know. It may be the only option a tenant has since is anyone really going to track down a cabel bill?
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Postby TenantNet » Sat Aug 24, 2013 6:14 am

It's not a FCC issue (or Federal in any way), nor is it a Public Service Commission (PSC or state) issue. The local cable company might be interested as it could be construed as illegal reselling of service.
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