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How strong is my case in court?

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How strong is my case in court?

Postby olivetree » Tue Apr 15, 2014 7:58 pm

I was living with roommates in an apartment where the landlord was 'management' rather than a person.

The building's policy which everyone signs is that roommates who move out of the building are NOT responsible for damages to the apartment. Only the remaining roommates are. They do this because they take only the ORIGINAL inhabitants security deposit.

So originally there were 4 people in that apartment. One of those poeple moved out and I took their place. I gave a security deposit to the roommate that was leaving (because the building would not officially give him back his security deposit unless ALL of the original inhabitants moved out) and that was supposed to be the 'return' of his security deposit. The arrangement was that when the next roommate was supposed to come to replace me I was supposed to get THEIR security deposit which would have replaced my own. I lived there for many years and throughout the years all of the original inhabitants of the apartment moved out (except for one) and they all got their security deposit this way. When they left the next roommate would pay them the security deposit etc... The last people to move out of the apartment would get the official check from the building.

Well, something happened to me where I had to go to the hospital during the last few days of my move so I asked one of my roommates (who was the only original inhabitant left) if he could get the security deposit from the next roommate who was replacing me. He agreed. When I returned from the hospital he told me that the building decided I owed a great deal of money in damages. I approached management and they told me (and put it in writing) that this was a lie. They did not charge me for damages at all.

What are my chances of winning if I take my roommates to court for not giving me the security deposit of the roommate who took my place? I have the building's statement in writing and I also have pictures of the room from the last time I saw it. However because of the weirdness of the way we were handling the security deposits I'm not sure what the judge will say.
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Re: How strong is my case in court?

Postby TenantNet » Wed Apr 16, 2014 3:44 am

You don't indicate if you are rent stab or not. I'll assume not.

The so-called policy is probably irrelevant, but in general, tenants are jointly and severally liable for the rent ... and by extension for damages (look it up on Wikipedia). That means if there's a default, the LL can come after all the tenants or any one tenant. That usually covers situations where a tenant moves out, leaving one tenant. The remaining tenant is liable for the entire rent, not just his half.

I normally see references to joint and several liability in tenants leases, however I can't say if it's required to be in a lease or just generally applies.

The arrangement with the deposit is flawed as you have no idea of the condition of the unit when the original tenants took occupancy, and it leads to accounting nightmares. And the building could not really seek damages until all the tenants moved out. Even so, that is a common practice.

You don't indicate if the roommate who supposedly was doing you a favor actually got the deposit from the new tenant, and if so, what did he do with it. You imply - but don't state - that he handed over the deposit to the management.

First, find out if the new roommate paid the deposit and to whom. If it's the roommate, then put him on the spot. Your story seems to have some holes in it, but that might be the way to tell it. Make sure you can prove or document as much as possible.

If you decide to take action, you have three possible people to go after ... the old roommate, the person who replaced you, and the landlord. The LL will likely claim they aren't responsible, but I'm not so sure. Look at your lease. Even if there are clauses on this, there are times when some clauses are not enforceable.

I would also talk to an attorney, get a consultation.
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Re: How strong is my case in court?

Postby olivetree » Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:38 pm

"You don't indicate if the roommate who supposedly was doing you a favor actually got the deposit from the new tenant, and if so, what did he do with it. You imply - but don't state - that he handed over the deposit to the management."

No, The security deposit that he collected from the new tenant was supposed to go to ME. The way it always worked was that the NEW tenant would pay their deposit and would only get it back by the person who was taking their place when they moved out. So he didn't give management the deposit. It was supposed to go to me but He pocketed it himself and gave me nothing.

The lease we sign says: "Damages. The currently existing Damage to the physical condition of this unit is a liability of the remaining roommates." The vacating roommate will not be financially responsible for the costs of repair of any of the current physical damage to the apartment or any physical damage that is caused in the future."

"The arrangement with the deposit is flawed as you have no idea of the condition of the unit when the original tenants took occupancy, " The building was brand new when they moved in and there had been no occupants before they lived there. Does that help? When I moved in the room I stayed in was a complete mess and I took pictures of it. I actually left the place neater than it was when I moved in.
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Re: How strong is my case in court?

Postby olivetree » Wed Apr 16, 2014 1:17 pm

I should also add the following:

What I definitely can bring to court: Photos of the room on the day I moved in; Photos of the room on when I moved out; An official letter from management saying that they did not charge me for damages to the room and did not do an inspection; A signed IOU on a little stained piece of paper signed by the roommate I'm planning to sue saying that I gave him a security deposit.

What I'm HOPING to bring, but not sure I'll succeed: A statement from a prior Roommate who also had her money stolen from this same person, but in a different manner. A statement from the 4th roommate who was a witness to all of this and was so upset at how this roommate stole my money that he moved out soon after. The problem is that when I ask them to make their statements official so I can bring it to court they say they don't "want to get involved." So unless I can change their minds I'm not sure they're going to be willing to help.

Do you think what I have is enough?
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Re: How strong is my case in court?

Postby Cranky Tenant » Sat Apr 19, 2014 2:25 am

All of these transactions were made in cash and nobody bothered to get a receipt?
Then your former roomate claims he paid for damages. Did he get a itemized list?

You should ask the new roomate who replaced you if he has either a receipt or cancelled check. If not, I'd think he still owes you money and could be included in any possible lawsuit.
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Re: How strong is my case in court?

Postby olivetree » Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:48 am

All of these transactions were made in cash and nobody bothered to get a receipt? I don't remember how I paid the deposit, but I did have him sign a piece of paper that I typed up saying that I gave $1000 security deposit. Doesn't that count as a receipt? If it was paid by check then it is likely that my father paid the security deposit as I did not have personal checks at the time... but my father is no longer around. I've thought of asking the bank if they could check his records to see if he gave a check on a certain date, but I have a feeling they won't want to give me that information. So I'm hoping the piece of paper I have will be enough.


Then your former roomate claims he paid for damages. Did he get a itemized list? He SAID that he did get an itemized list, but when I asked to see it, he kept saying that he didn't have it on him. I never saw it myself. So I can only assume that it does not exist. He also claimed he had receipts of all the repairs and purchases he made from home depot because he did the "repairs" himself rather than having the building do it as a "favor" to me. When I asked for those receipts he suddenly didn't have them anymore. So I never saw those either.

"You should ask the new roomate who replaced you if he has either a receipt or cancelled check." I never met the new roommate. When I tried to, I was told that I was not welcome in the apartment. When I had to go in to pick up some items this roommate said I was only allowed in the early morning hours when all the other roommates would be asleep and hence I wouldn't be able to speak with them.
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Re: How strong is my case in court?

Postby TenantNet » Sun Apr 20, 2014 12:54 pm

Cutting through everything, you would need to take the person to Small Claims Court if the amount is less than $5,000. It's informal, but be prepared for them to create a fiction, so you will need to prove almost everything. Google Small Claims, you'll find it.
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Re: How strong is my case in court?

Postby olivetree » Mon Apr 21, 2014 7:31 am

Yeah I'm going to try to get the witnesses to what happened to come with me, but that's the toughest part. There are two people who came up to me and said they saw how he stole the deposit and used the money to make repairs to the apartment that had nothing to do with my room, but when I ask them to bring that information to court they say they don't want to "get involved." If I can't get them to do the right thing and say what they told me to a judge then I'm on my own with only the items I mentioned.

How long do I have to sue? What is the statute of limitations on getting security deposit back from a roommate?
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Re: How strong is my case in court?

Postby TenantNet » Mon Apr 21, 2014 9:48 am

No need to post the same thing twice. I deleted the duplicate post.

You can always subpoena people, but that's complicated. You can also file in regular civil court, but there's a filing fee for that and even more complicated.

You might try the Attorney General's office, but I don't know if they can help in this situation. In reality, the LL is required to return the deposit, and to you, not someone else. I do not know if the "way things have been done" would matter in this situation, even with the lease clause or whatever it is you have.

I would consider going after the LL and let them go after the roommate. Did you give him written authorization to collect the deposit?

Statute of Limitations in general should be 6 years. But don't wait.

In the end, you might have to chalk this up to experience.
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Re: How strong is my case in court?

Postby olivetree » Mon Apr 21, 2014 4:24 pm

"
I would consider going after the LL and let them go after the roommate. Did you give him written authorization to collect the deposit?"


THere is no LL. THe security deposit was given to the Roommate. The landlord is a management company that only keeps the security deposit of the original inhabitants. LL never saw my security deposit.
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