Deposit Return Screening Self Review

Prior to engaging us, please review the red flags and recommendations below.  Unfortunately we are not able to offer a free review on all cases.  Our paid review of your deposit dispute covers the following:

  • Terms of the lease itself to include early termination, hold over, fees, penalties, and other contractual terms
  • Whether the landlord followed the requirements under RCW 59.18.260, 59.18.270, 59.18.280, 59.18.310, and 59.18.030(39)
  • Whether the itemization meets the legal standard for clarity and requirement for receipts on some line items
  • Depreciation calculations
  • Verification of license of any contractors used and validity of their fees
  • Review of costs for market averages
  • Review of potential violations of other laws (RCW 19.16, RCW 19.86, FDCPA)
  • All options to resolve including litigation, potential counterclaims for damage, settlement, bankruptcy, and more
  • We charge $250.00 flat for a review of the issues listed above due to extent of documentation to review and work required
  • Typically if there is a violation of law, solutions range from a mutual wavier of rights to a settlement in your favor ranging form $5k-10k to possibly more depending on the egregiousness and extent of violations.  We offer flat fee, hourly, and contingent representation for subsequent services.

 

 

NOTE- these are screening tips.  Do not rely on these alone to make any legal allegations without discussing with us in full first.

If the landlord violates 1-3, you are potentially entitled to up to 2x your deposit and attorney fees.  Violations of 4-14 fall along the lines of unfair business practice and collection violations and vary greatly in what you would be statutorily awarded.

  1. Did you ever sign an initial walkthrough?  If not, they likely cannot retain your deposit.
  2. Was the deposit separately escrowed?  If not they likely cannot retain your deposit.
  3. Was an itemization provided within 30 days after vacating?   Did they provide receipts with the itemization?  If not they likely cannot retain your deposit.
  4. If you broke lease, was a termination fee added?  This usually requires you to notify and ask permission first, pay the fee first, and leave by the target date.  Typically, if you just left without doing these things, the termination fee cannot be added.
  5. Was the termination fee greater than 2x the rent?  This is highly unusual and may be an unrealistic term.
  6. Is the relet fee more than 1x the monthly rent?  This is highly unusual for it to exceed one month and may be an unrealistic term.
  7. Are all of the items (not services such as cleaning but things like light bulbs, blinds, drip pans) a round number?  Likely a violation as they have tax so whatever number if fake.
  8. Was the repair done by the complex handyman but charged to you at market rate?  Likely the handyman is not a contractor and the landlord can recover costs not profit.  Additionally large complexes purchase items in bulk so can only charge the bulk rate pro rata if that is what happened.
  9. Did the landlord depreciate the items claimed?  A carpet has a usual lifespan of 7 years.  If you lived there for 2 years, that is 5/7 x the cost, not a brand new carpet.
  10. Do you see the word forfeit in relation to your deposit?  This is almost always a violation.
  11. Are they claiming you broke an appliance like a dishwasher or dryer?  Did they charge you the full price of a new one?  Likely fraud.
  12. Are they claiming you broke the countertops, tub, toilet, or other expensive item and charge remodeling level prices (5k+) to fix?  Likely fraud.
  13. Do the numbers seem inappropriately large?  For example your typical inside bedroom closet hanging door is about $100.00.  Did they charge $500.00 to fix it?
  14. Are the repairs they are trying to blame you for things you noted in the initial walkthrough or are their responsibility?

General Benchmarks for when you want to hire us for a deposit dispute:

A. One or more of the red flags above apply.

B. The damages they claim are at least $1,000.00 and exceed your deposit.

C. If you have a large deposit or $2,000.00 or more and they keep at least 50% of it.

D. You see the word “forfeit” anywhere in the itemization or you do not see your deposit applied (no matter how small or large your deposit is).

E. You have enough other debt that you need an overall strategy or solution.

 

When you don’t want to hire us for a deposit dispute:

A. If none of the red flags above apply (if red flags apply you probably want to contact us) AND

B. You are getting refund and your deposit was $1,000.00 or less OR

C. Your deposit was $1,000.00 or less and they want only a small amount above this.

To explain, we don’ want to charge you $250.00 to review your case if you do not have a high chance of prevailing.  We want to inform you of our benchmarks and encourage a self review so that you are confident in your facts to know that your money will be well spent and go towards a resolution of the problem.  Fraud occurs all the time, sometimes it is not economical to pursue, too difficult to prove, or the risk is not worth it.  In most instances, a landlord can convince most judges that around $1,000.00 in damages is normal (think a clean around $300.00, carpet around $300.00, basic paint $300.00, and $100.00 in odds and ends).  If you lack the pictures to show you left it in a better condition or that the landlord kicked the holes in the wall they are blaming you for after move out, sometimes, you lose even when the other side lies.  These guidelines are designed to parse out a strong case from a case that is less likely to prevail.  We will review any case if if you ask us, but this is not a free review due to the time and effort involved.

 

What can we do for you?

  1. Generally, a violation of RCW 59.18.260-280 of the deposit process opens up a claim for 2x your deposit in damages plus an attorney fee award (which we collect from the other side).  We usually just ask a small amount down and the cost of service, the rest is contingent.
  2. If a fraudulent amount is demanded and sent to collections, we can sue additionally under RCW 19.16 (Washington Collection Agency Act), FDCPA, RCW 19.86 (Consumer Protection Act).  We can sue for damages and clean up of your credit.  We start by serving the complaint without filing to resolve without a record being established and to keep costs down.  If they don’t settle, we file the case and proceed to litigation.  Settlements (early in the process) are typically in the 5k-10k range but vary.  Trial awards vary greatly.
  3. We can potentially litigate for unfair business practices such as utilizing forfeit of deposit (where they keep it without applying it/reducing damages), not depreciating, etc.
  4. We have settlement options if the charges are legitimate and bankruptcy options in extreme scenarios (such as you accidentally started a fire that burned the apartment down and you were not insured).
  5. We are a full service firm that can take your case from the negotiation stage through trial.

 

Small sample of typical case results (all actual cases)

  1. Tenant broke lease early.  Estimated damages to landlord around $4,000.00.  Tenant had paid an initial amount of a deposit and had to pay the remainder of the deposit after move in.  It was not accounted for upon move out, leading to around $500.00 in overcharge.  We removed all negative tradelines, wiped out the damages owed, and obtained settlement of $5,000.00 prior to trial.
  2. Tenant had made a deposit of $500.00.  Landlord claimed around $4,000.00 in unpaid rent and damages.  The landlord claimed the deposit was forfeit and kept it without crediting it (hint- this is an illegal practice in WA).  We wiped out the damages, had all negative tradelines removed, and obtained a settlement of $9,000.00 prior to trial.
  3. After move out, the landlord made insanely large claims of $12,000.00 in damages.  Not only were these unsupported claims, but they used unlicensed contractors to perform them.  As the clients were not litigious and wanted this to just go away, we settled on a mutual waiver of rights, clean up of their credit report and they paid none of the alleged damages.

In most instances, pre litigation (meaning a served but unfixed case or demand letter) settle in the $5-10k range with a wipeout of damages and clean up of credit.  Post filing and pre trial, the number may go up or down depending on the facts discovered (so if they have pictures and you don’t, it usually hurts the number).  Trial result vary tremendously based on what issues we prevail upon and the damages we can prove.