How to get back a damage deposit from a landlord?

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How to get back a damage deposit from a landlord?

Our daughter, a college student, rented a home with a friend/other college students. Their lease is up and the landlord is stating that he is holding their deposit for painting. However the interior was not painted when they moved in. On the walk-through the landlord verbally stated, in front of students/parents, that they could do anything to the home except burn it down. In fact, they specifically asked if they could paint, and they were verbally told yes they could (although the lease states that such permission needs to be in writing). Consequently 3 rooms were painted without written consent (students had issues with landlord for bathrooms, leaking pipes, washing machine, dishwasher, lawn mowing, windows, etc – which were all landlords responsibilities). The landlord would also come into home without a 2 day notice which was stated in lease. Would it be smart to go to small claims court?

Asked on May 29, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, a landlord may not charge for the typical, end-of-rental painting done to freshen the premises up for the next renter(s). However, if there was a term in the contract stating that *written* permission was needed in order for the tenants to paint and such permission was not obtained, then the landlord can probably charge to re-paint the premises. Even if oral or verbal permission was given, it was probably not enough if there was a term in the lease specificallly requiring written permission. While it may be an understandable and  innocent mistake, your dought and friends violated the lease, which would seemingly give the landlord the right to charge them. Any other issues with the landlord would probably not affect the landlord's right to charge.


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