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Old 08-20-2013, 08:37 PM   #1
Split Arrow
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Default Small Claims Court- Anyone been?

Recently my wife (elf feet) and I sold our house and hadn't found a new one yet, so we rented a property here in The Woodlands for six months. We paid all six months rent up front, and cared for the property as though it were our own. We didn't even unpack anything but the essentials. We didn't hang anything on any wall and only used two rooms and the kitchen during our time there.

We received our deposit back today, and the landlord had deducted $1,150 from our initial security deposit! His explanations are completely bogus, too.

1. Landscape and exterior items- $200
2. House cleaning- $150
3. Garage door opener doesn't work $325 total, $75 tenant co-pay
4. Carpet cleaning- $225.90
5. Management fee- $500

He goes on to say that it's obvious the lawn was never watered, which is why he charged $200 for landscaping. That's not true though. I have a receipt from Home Depot for a sprinkler, a written letter from neighbors saying that saw me watering the yard regularly, and a water bill consumption history that shows our usage dramatically increase in April, May, and June. But even if I didn't water the lawn (which I did), he can't charge some random amount for landscaping. He can only charge what it costs to restore it- and watering couldn't possibly be $200.

Both cleaning fees are completely bogus, as my wife worked hard to ensure that the house was cleaner than it was when we moved in. Unfortunately we cannot prove this, though.

Our lease does not allow for a tenant "co-pay" if something on the house breaks. Contractually, he cannot charge us $75 because the garage door opener stopped working.

Lastly, the $500 management fee is the most laughable of them all. His reasoning is that he had to manage and oversee all the work done to repair his house. But our lease does not allow him to do that.

With all that in mind, do any of you have any experience with small claims court? I'm seriously considering filing a claim because these charges are completely bogus.

Thanks for your help, and sorry for the long post!

Last edited by Split Arrow; 08-20-2013 at 08:41 PM..
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Old 08-20-2013, 08:47 PM   #2
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Going thru this now with a LL. All that you mentioned will be considered wear and tear except for the cleaning of the house and carpet. His word against yours. Management fee is a joke. He could be liable for 3 times the amount owed if JP decides he acted in bad faith. Good luck
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Old 08-20-2013, 08:50 PM   #3
Roy D Mercer
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I was scheduled to appear against an insurance company but they chickened out and paid. I say go for it
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Old 08-20-2013, 08:52 PM   #4
Split Arrow
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Going thru this now with a LL. All that you mentioned will be considered wear and tear except for the cleaning of the house and carpet. His word against yours. Management fee is a joke. He could be liable for 3 times the amount owed if JP decides he acted in bad faith. Good luck
It's so frustrating. Isn't normal wear and tear expected, and covered in most leases? It is in ours... There has to be specific damage in order for the LL to be able to deduct anything, and in this case I'm sure there wasn't.

Good luck as you go through this yourself! I hope the JP finds in favor of us, 3x's the amt!
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Old 08-20-2013, 08:54 PM   #5
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JP might find that the cleaning of house and carpet is wear and tear too.
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Old 08-20-2013, 08:57 PM   #6
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Split Arrow forgot to mention that we paid a non-refundable pet deposit which should have covered the carpet cleaning (even though I scrubbed all spots out of the carpet). So, the LL essentially charged us twice for the carpet cleaning.
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Old 08-20-2013, 08:57 PM   #7
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I have only had to do one small claims, which I won. It's not a ton of money, but I would probably do it on principal.

If I remember correctly, you need to send him a claim letter requesting your deposit back and give him time to respond. Then if he does not, you can file the suit. It will probably cost you about a hundred bucks to get it done.
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:01 PM   #8
keep
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Small claims court was a piece of cake the time we went. Like Chunky said I would do it again on principal
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:04 PM   #9
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Good luck! Keep us updated.
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:06 PM   #10
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Split Arrow forgot to mention that we paid a non-refundable pet deposit which should have covered the carpet cleaning (even though I scrubbed all spots out of the carpet). So, the LL essentially charged us twice for the carpet cleaning.
Then he is definitely trying to charge off the deposit any way possible. You can sue for up to $10000 including atty fees. Just remember that all he has to do is appeal then you have to go to district court and do it all over again. I've been told that the one with the most evidence usually wins.
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:10 PM   #11
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Then he is definitely trying to charge off the deposit any way possible. You can sue for up to $10000 including atty fees. Just remember that all he has to do is appeal then you have to go to district court and do it all over again. I've been told that the one with the most evidence usually wins.
I don't want $10,000, I just want what is rightfully due to us. There is plenty of evidence in our favor, most importantly is the fact that our lease doesn't allow him to make three of the five deductions, regardless of the condition of the house.
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:11 PM   #12
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Totally understand just giving you what the jurisdictional limit is.
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:14 PM   #13
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Thanks for all your help, it's good info.

Do you happen to know how long it takes to get a court date, generally speaking? I have an elk hunt from Sept 8-18 and don't want to be scheduled while I'm gone. Do you think I should just wait until I get back before filing?

Thanks!
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:17 PM   #14
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I filed in Plano and won't get one for 9 months. If they schedule it you can ask for a continuance.
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:19 PM   #15
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Lovely! Sorry for your troubles - I hope it works out in your favor
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:40 PM   #16
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Sue his arse!
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:43 PM   #17
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I sued in small claims and won hands down. Never received a dime, just a judgement.

Waste of time....
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:46 PM   #18
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I sued in small claims and won hands down. Never received a dime, just a judgement.

Waste of time....
Should have filed a writ of execution if they didn't appeal. Cost about $175 depending on the county then send the sheriff to take any real property to collect the debt owed.
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:48 PM   #19
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Rob - Kelly request that you take this straight to Judge Judy so that we can watch it all unfold on TV!
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:52 PM   #20
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Sucks you got done like that but in most cases the land lord will win. It's your word against his, with the exception of PROOF. Unless you have photo proof of what things looked like before now you're going to have trouble in court. I hope you do win though!
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Old 08-20-2013, 09:57 PM   #21
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Be prepared and organized on your court date and you shouldn't have a problem. Still doesn't mean you will get paid if you win. I filed the writ of execution and the constables effort to collect was a joke. Took two years of me knocking on the home owners door every weekend to collect $1500 and the he still owes me more. This was in Laredo so I really didn't expect much help from the court in collecting.
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Old 08-20-2013, 10:12 PM   #22
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I sued in small claims and won hands down. Never received a dime, just a judgement.

Waste of time....

Did you record the judgement in the county real estate records?
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Old 08-21-2013, 12:21 AM   #23
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take it to small claims court, he has to be able to prove what he is claiming ,, first thing when the case starts is to ask for his before and after pictures he took with a time dated camera.. ask him to supply water bills from the property from previous tenants. if he is going to claim you did not water the lawn, which you might not be responsible for if it was not in your contract for ground maintenance.... depending one where it is you may have simply made a wise choice to conserve water when so much of the state is in drought,,, lots of places will fine you for watering a lawn or even washing a car...

you dispute the claims he makes, he will have to provide evidence to support all of them..... but be sure to thoroughly read your contract word for word.... be sure of what your position is it regards to it....
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Old 08-21-2013, 07:26 AM   #24
slicktricker
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Spit Arrow and Elf Feet chapter 92 of the Texas Property Code has everything you'll need as far as your rights as a tenant. The section about deposits has some good info in it and lays out the consequences if the rule of law wasn't followed.
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:40 AM   #25
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Quote:
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Rob - Kelly request that you take this straight to Judge Judy so that we can watch it all unfold on TV!
haha
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:42 AM   #26
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Sucks you got done like that but in most cases the land lord will win. It's your word against his, with the exception of PROOF. Unless you have photo proof of what things looked like before now you're going to have trouble in court. I hope you do win though!
Actually, the Texas Property Code says the burden of proof is on the landlord in cases like this. He has to prove that deductions from the deposit were reasonable.

Although I can and will prove that we didn't leave the house in poor condition and/or violate the lease in any way, technically I don't have to prove anything. The burden of proof is entirely upon his shoulders.
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Old 08-21-2013, 09:16 AM   #27
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My good friend went thru this. Ended up with twice the amount he was supposed to get back! As long as you have your ducks in a row, I would think you would be in good shape.
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Old 08-21-2013, 09:17 AM   #28
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It was easy and I won against the guy who I leased a place from but never got to hunt. Only problem is I still have not been paid from him.
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Old 08-21-2013, 11:15 AM   #29
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Everyone who gets a judgement from the JP court, or any court, should record it in the deed records of the county(s) where the defendant owns real estate. If he/she ever sells any real estate, the title company will see that you are paid of...with interest. So some day you, or your heirs, will likely get paid.
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Old 08-21-2013, 11:37 AM   #30
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I would take it to court on principal. Sucks when people try and take advantage of you. Good luck.
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Old 08-21-2013, 11:40 AM   #31
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Originally Posted by Burnadell View Post
Everyone who gets a judgement from the JP court, or any court, should record it in the deed records of the county(s) where the defendant owns real estate. If he/she ever sells any real estate, the title company will see that you are paid of...with interest. So some day you, or your heirs, will likely get paid.
he's smart, knows the law, AND can drop an elbow on your skull...
Burnadell IS the total package... and no Im not talking about Burnadells package,... that's adair's job.
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Old 08-21-2013, 11:43 AM   #32
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he's smart, knows the law, and can drop an elbow on your skull...
burnadell is the total package ... And no im not talking about burnadells package,... That's adair's job.

fify!
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Old 08-21-2013, 11:44 AM   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Split Arrow View Post
Thanks for all your help, it's good info.

Do you happen to know how long it takes to get a court date, generally speaking? I have an elk hunt from Sept 8-18 and don't want to be scheduled while I'm gone. Do you think I should just wait until I get back before filing?

Thanks!
The September date shouldn't be a bother, it takes at least six weeks for it all to come together. I filed one in Baytown a couple months ago and I am still waiting on a court date.
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Old 08-21-2013, 11:46 AM   #34
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Just remember on a judgement, it will last 10 years before it has to be renewed again.
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Old 08-21-2013, 12:00 PM   #35
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Just remember on a judgement, it will last 10 years before it has to be renewed again.
This is somewhat correct. I believe that the judgement is forever, but it needs to be RE-FILED in the deed records again in 10 years. Perhaps an attorney will clarify.
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Old 08-21-2013, 12:46 PM   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Burnadell View Post
Everyone who gets a judgement from the JP court, or any court, should record it in the deed records of the county(s) where the defendant owns real estate. If he/she ever sells any real estate, the title company will see that you are paid of...with interest. So some day you, or your heirs, will likely get paid.
That interest is no joke! I've seen a lot of short sales come through my old department that had cloudy titles. When people found out how much they owed versus what the original judgment was.... well, it was amusing, and their language was colorful!
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Old 08-21-2013, 03:05 PM   #37
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We own rental property. You sound like an awesome tenant to have. I would take him to court for sure.
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Old 08-21-2013, 03:12 PM   #38
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Sounds like my old Slumlord in the Woodlands
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Old 08-21-2013, 06:00 PM   #39
Split Arrow
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Thanks for all the input yall- One last question:

Should I deposit the check he sent? It's only a few hundred dollars, and I'd hate to unknowingly give consent by cashing the check or something. Thoughts?
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Old 08-21-2013, 06:05 PM   #40
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I haven't crossed that bridge yet but that's a good question. Personally I wouldn't until I talked to an atty.
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Old 08-21-2013, 07:16 PM   #41
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Just send Burnadell over to whoop the rest of your deposit out of him.
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Old 08-21-2013, 08:58 PM   #42
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Split Arrow View Post
Thanks for all the input yall- One last question:

Should I deposit the check he sent? It's only a few hundred dollars, and I'd hate to unknowingly give consent by cashing the check or something. Thoughts?
I don't have the answer to that one, but you may be right about the possible consent...perhaps a real attorney can respond.
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Old 08-21-2013, 09:03 PM   #43
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The one thing that helped me in a case like this is when i ever move into a place always and always take pics....
Take the dated news paper and put it in the pic so they know it was that date. And make sure you get everything... before moving anything into the house apt etc etc etc.....
Then when moving out .. do the same thing. CYA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


I hope you get a positive outcome on this.
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Old 08-21-2013, 09:04 PM   #44
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Split Arrow View Post
Thanks for all the input yall- One last question:

Should I deposit the check he sent? It's only a few hundred dollars, and I'd hate to unknowingly give consent by cashing the check or something. Thoughts?
I'd deposit it, but first I'd write "1 of 7" on the memo line
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Old 08-21-2013, 10:02 PM   #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Split Arrow View Post
Thanks for all the input yall- One last question:

Should I deposit the check he sent? It's only a few hundred dollars, and I'd hate to unknowingly give consent by cashing the check or something. Thoughts?
Does the check have any restricted endorsements on it, like "final payment" or "settlement"? If so, heck no. Most banking institutions don't accept restricted endorsements due to the potential legal mess, but sometimes they slip through the cracks.
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Old 08-21-2013, 10:34 PM   #46
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As a SBO, I never deposit a check under dispute. That was 15 years ago, and I may not know the current laws, but got burned once and learned the lesson.
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Old 08-21-2013, 10:55 PM   #47
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Quote:
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As a SBO, I never deposit a check under dispute. That was 15 years ago, and I may not know the current laws, but got burned once and learned the lesson.
What is SBO?
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Old 08-21-2013, 11:42 PM   #48
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A good threat of a suit may be enough to get your deposit back.

EDIT: Especially if you include the fact that you are going to file for the full amount allowed by law which I believe to be something like 1 and 1/2 of the deposit. I would need to check the code first. Look it up.
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Old 08-22-2013, 07:39 AM   #49
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rockjock View Post
A good threat of a suit may be enough to get your deposit back.

EDIT: Especially if you include the fact that you are going to file for the full amount allowed by law which I believe to be something like 1 and 1/2 of the deposit. I would need to check the code first. Look it up.
It's 3 times and no need to threaten anything just file and have him served is threat enough. He should know the code he's in the business.
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Old 08-22-2013, 08:09 AM   #50
Split Arrow
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It's 3 times and no need to threaten anything just file and have him served is threat enough. He should know the code he's in the business.
I'm going to try to file today. He'll get the message soon enough. I tried calling him four times and he has not responded. My guess is that he'll try to settle after he's served.
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