how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs?

This is a discussion on how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs? within the Landlord vs Tenant Issues forum, part of the REAL ESTATE & PROPERTY LAW category; It has been a year and half since we moved out of the apartment that this refers to and we ...

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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 01:48 AM   #1
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Default how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs?

It has been a year and half since we moved out of the apartment that this refers to and we just got a final bill for repairs in the mail today. The last time we heard anything form the landlord was right after we moved out with an estimate for carpet replacement and that they are holding out security deposit and charging us $400. Since this was only an estimate I told them to let me know when the final bill came, apparently that didn't happen until now. The bill is now for over $2500. Can the landlord do this to us? How long can the take to give us a final bill? And can they add that much of amount to the bill?
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 02:27 PM   #2
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Default Re: how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs?

Let me see if I understand this correctly. You received an itemized statement for your deposit within the time period after you moved out. On it was an estimated charge for carpeting. Total deductions were listed as $400 over the cost of the deposit. Correct so far?

Then you heard nothing for a year and a half?!?! Did you contact the LL during that time to either a) pay the $400 that was listed as you owed or b) dispute that you owed for carpet replacement? (Did you ruin some carpet in the unit? How much and how?) It sounds as if you only OKed the charges and told him to contact you once the carpet bill came in.

I suggest you write a dispute letter to the LL immediately. Ask why it took so long to get back to you with the actual charges. Some possibilities: 1)Was it a screw up on the LL's part? You may then only be responsible for the original $400. 2)Did the carpet company forget to bill him? If so, he may have thought he was getting free carpet until they figured out they forgot to bill. That happened to me only once. Thought I got lucky -for a while. 3)Did you move again during this period and not give him the forwarding address? He may have sent it to the next address which only is forwarded for one year. OR 4)Did the LL not replace the carpet until now? If so, why the delay???

If the carpet was just now replaced, was anyone else living there during that last 1 1/2 yrs? If so, how do you know that all the carpet damages are now yours? They could be the last tenant's problems. Why did he wait 1 1/2 yrs to replace it? This doesn't make sense. Write the dispute letter and get an explanation from the LL as to why this bill is so late. Send it certified, rrr, and keep a copy. You want to dispute this bill. Ask for a new itemization. If the new list doesn't show a depreciated value for the carpet, the bill is incorrect. The LL must depreciate any ruined carpet according to its current value according to its age when you moved out. That means you only pay a portion of the replacement, not the whole replacement costs. And you only pay for the room that was ruined, not the whole unit's carpet.

Legally, it probably is still within the statute of limitations for written contracts. He could still pursue you. He had notified you of damages when you moved out. But you need to dispute these costs. Something fishy is going on here and you need to find out what before you agree to anything!
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 02:41 PM   #3
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Default Re: how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs?

I'll ring in here and second that advice.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 10:38 PM   #4
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Default Re: how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs?

1) I have no idea how old the carpet was, i know that it was at least 2 years because that is how long the tenants before us lived there and it was not replaced after they moved out.
2) there were new tenants who moved in 2 days after we vaccated the premises
3) the new bill that i got was not just for the carpet replacement, which yes he charged us the entire amout for, but also for removal of appliances because the new tenants wanted theirs in. The new bill also charged us for things that were not in our lease and the landlord had wanted to add to our lease but i refused to sign the amendment.
4) the reason that I do not believe that he replaced the carpets right away after we moved out is not only becasue i don't believe that he had enough time, but also because he only had an estimate put down for the carpet replacement after the new tenants had moved in. if he had replaced the carpeting then he would have known the acctual cost to replace it.

so my question is, can he add items to a bill 1 1/2 years later that were not on the original statement? and can he charge to replace something that later became the next tenants responsiblity becasue they were the last to live there?
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 11:39 PM   #5
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Default Re: how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs?

1) The carpet would be approximately 3 yrs old at move out. (2 yrs from the previous tenants, assuming you stayed a year). The LL can choose any number from 5-10 yrs to depreciate per the IRS. Most LLs use 7 yrs. If he used 7 yrs, you would owe 4/7 of the carpet's replacement costs since that is how much of the carpet's remaining life should have been left. He should be charging a depreciated value like this, but also only charging for the room(s) that you ruined. He cannot charge you for other rooms just so they would match.
2) Unless he did a move in inspection with the new tenants, how could he prove that these were your damages and not the new tenants' damages? This is an issue to raise should this go to court.
3) How are you responsible to remove appliances just because the new tenants had their own? Not your cost. And what other costs not listed in your lease are you speaking of? What did he want to add as an amendment that you refused to sign?
4) The carpet could have been replaced with the new tenants in there. It is not impossible to put in new carpet with tenants there. It's just a lot more work for the carpet installers. You need to know exactly when it was installed. If he won't tell you, call the installers or carpet store and ask them.

Without knowing what additional items were added, it is hard to give a blanket statement of yes or no. Other damages can be discovered during the state permitted period of discovery and you can be charged with them. Your original statement did include only an estimate. Charges could be higher or lower than that. Additionally, the statute of limitations would not have run out in only a year. (Please list your state and we can tell you the exact time limit.) You need to give us a detailed list of what you were charged with, and let us know what is on the new list that was not included on the original itemized deductions.
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 10:28 AM   #6
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Default Re: how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs?

Well we live in WI and some of he items were the removal of applicances that the new teanants wanted out not us. As well as they are now charging for cleaning of the stove, which they took 4 hours before they said they were coming and before we acctually had to hand over the keys. They are also charging for water used by a guest who stayed longer than 2 weeks - which they were notified of and the guest was ment to be put on the lease but the landlord procrastinated about it, There was nothing in our lease saying that we would get charged extra for another guest. They landlord tried to put an amendment to the lease to raise the rent during the guests stay but I refused to sign it as I did not agree that we had to pay him extra. He also claims that we owe for the carpet cleaning as we had a guest longer than 2 weeks which is veiwed as beyond normal wear and tear. All of this I remind you he did know and had on file before the original estimate was sent out. There was nothing as far as damages go or anything that is beyond normal wear and tear other than the pet stains on the carpet. The only 'damage' was a hole in the master bedroom due to a missing door stop that was there when we moved in and they are trying to charge us for. I have read in the law that this is considered normal wear and tear. They are also adding cost of re-renting appartment due to breach of lease. Our lease clearly stated that with a 30 day notice and approval from the landlord we could get out of the lease with no reprecautions unless they were unable to re-rent, which they did re-rent and the new teants moved in a day after we vacated. They are also charging to replace the screen in the front door, which when we left there was nothing damaged about it, I have read the WI tenant landlord law and it states that they have to itemize within the first 21 days or return the security deposit. I do believe that what they are trying to do is illegal. They are also not allowed to charge for full cost of the carpet cleaning, they have to prorate it on a five year period as to the age of the carpeting upon vacancy.

I still do not believe that they can add items to the bill but am not sure. It is my understanding of the law that they can not add items to the bill if they had previous knowlege of what they are charging. They were given a 30 day notice and had approved us vacating. They are also trying to charge for something that was not our request, it was the new tenant's (appliance removal). I still do not understand everything completely but do believe that my information is correct. If not feel free to correct me.
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Old Jan 7th, 2010, 01:00 AM   #7
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Default Re: how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs?

Dirty carpets and pet stains are NOT wear and tear. They are damages and you can be charged for the carpet if it could not be cleaned. You must return the unit in the same condition as you received it less wear & tear (wear & tear is not dirt). You would pay the full cost of carpet cleaning, not a prorated cost. If unable to be cleaned, the carpet replacement costs should be depreciated and you should be charged with the current value of the carpet (determined by the depreciation method mentioned earlier). If charged the depreciated value of the ruined carpet, this is a legit deduction. No LL is required to use 5 years to depreciate. IRS rules state they may choose to use anywhere from 5 to 10 years to do this on their taxes. They should be using the same number of years for depreciating the carpet for you. He can charge you only for the room or rooms that were ruined by your pet.

If there were no extra charges in your lease for occupants over the limit, you cannot be charged for that. You were in violation of the lease to allow extra occupants to live or stay in the unit prior to authorization. If you refused to pay for the extra guests, you could have been evicted for that. In future, make sure the paperwork is in place prior to allowing guests to stay extended periods. Most leases do not allow guests to stay that long without prior approval, especially if some of the utilities are provided by the LL. Leases typically allow a 3 or 7 day stay only.

If the stove was not cleaned prior to vacating, you can be charged for that. How much did they charge for cleaning? This should not be a large charge. They should not be charging you to remove appliances that the next tenants do not need.

If you broke a lease when you moved out, you are liable for the rent until it was re-rented (none in this case), advertising costs needed to secure a new tenant, agent fees if he used one to find the new tenants, unpaid utilities that revert to him, and any non-reimbursed costs the LL suffers because of the lease break. Unless you have a signed release of liability or obligation from your lease, you did not have permission to break your lease. You would have a hard time convincing a court that the LL allowed you to break a lease without penalty unless you have a signed release. If you break a lease, you must pay for the re-renting costs.

For now, you need to write a dispute letter. Take the items on the list and dispute them one by one, mentioning why you do not owe that money or why you owe a lesser amount for that charge. Send this letter to him by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy. If he fails to agree or respond within a reasonable time (say 2 weeks), file in small claims court for the entire deposit plus any penalties permitted for wrongful withholding. Please re-post to update us when this happens.
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Old Jan 7th, 2010, 08:01 PM   #8
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Default Re: how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs?

Ok I understand that they can origanlly charge me for these cost. well some of them, but what i don't get yet is can he charge me for them 1 1/2 years later. keep in mind that he did send the estimate for the carpet replacement, not cleaning (not prorated) within the 21 days that the WI law requires. But can he legally charge me for the other costs this late in the game? that is my only real question. Can he add these items later on legal charges or not? I was not notified or even attempted to be notified of the charges. We hadn't moved and we had contacted him back in february for for rent certificates and he has had our address the entire time. The law clearly states that he has 21 days to deliver and itemized bill for charges and reason to withhold security deposit. Yet again all I want to know is if he can legally charge the rest of the items a year and half later?
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Old Jan 8th, 2010, 10:43 AM   #9
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Default Re: how long can the landlord take to charge for repairs?

He cannot charge you for moving the appliances out. If you have proof of the hole in the wall, he cannot charge you for existing damages. If you left the stove dirty and he took pictures, a judge may well award him that. Beyond this, there are no damages other than the carpet (or at least you didn't mention any others). So really, the only amount in dispute is the mount of the carpet. If it had to be replaced, why was it cleaned? Normally you are charged for one or the other, unless these charges are on 2 different rooms.

Only a judge could say if he can charge you for other items. While the deposit deductions have to be itemized and sent to you in 21 days, did he itemize (if only estimated) enough charges to use the entire deposit at that time? If so, then the only question that remains is if a judge would allow the other deductions under the statute of limitations on written contracts. You would have to take him to court to find out. Each judge rules differently.
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