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Discussion Starter #1
So you all are so great on this forum, I thought I would ask out for some advice. I know pretty much everyone here is not a lawyer and that is who I should be consulting, but it would just be nice to hear if anyone has any experiences with this sort of thing.

My girlfriend and I have been looking into renting this house we found for pretty cheap. The landlord has always seemed kind of shady to me, and doesn't really give you clear answers on anything you ask him. But we decided the place was ok and it had a garage, so I was game.

We went and looked at the place and they were still working on it, laying carpet, cleaning, etc. I said it was ok, but when I opened the oven, a slew of roaches came pouring out and it totally grossed us out. The landlord said he would have someone spray and make sure everything is taken care of.

He then told me that he would like half of the security deposit now, and half in September. Then we would pay Septembers rent on the first. So we wrote him a check and he said that the place would be ready to rent in a week.

So this past week, he called up saying he would like for us to move in friday (August 15th), and that he would prorate it for us. We were kind of excited to move into a house, and my girlfriend as much as I love her, took out a loan to get half of August prorated paid.

The landlord told us Monday the house was pretty much ready and we could come by Wednesday to get the keys. I explained to him that's fine, but we wouldn't have August's prorate rent until Friday. He said it wouldn't be a problem. Well, it was. . .

Yesterday, I got home late from work, but my girlfriend went over to get the keys. While she was there, the landlord asked her for not only August's prorate rent, but the other half of the security deposit (which he said we could pay in Sept). She told him he didn't have the money and he said he needed it to move in, so she wrote him a check (knowing the money wasn't even in the bank).

She told me that he was talking in unclear terms and was pretty much demanding the money from her or we wouldn't get the place. When she came home to tell me, she was almost in tears. She said she felt manipulated and used, and that she had just given him two checks for $550. So now we have given this guy $1750 already. He also will be requesting another $1100 for Septembers rent in two weeks, a total of $2850 in about 2 weeks time. I thoroughly explained to him in the past we couldn't do this!

Well we decided to go look at the house without him there and I told her we'd figure it out. But when I got to the house, it was subpar for a place that I'm giving this much money for. He told me the place would be sprayed, but as soon as we walked in we found roaches crawling everywhere, including in the cupboards, in the oven, and in the freezer. Not only that, but the A/C unit coils were frozen over (apparently a problem) and the shower's bathtub is clogged with a pool of water in it. Totally gross.

We signed a lease when we did the first walkthrough, but the lease states that there is only a $550 security deposit and our move in date is September first. We have the keys, but I had my girlfriend put a stop payment on the two checks she wrote yesterday, because I don't think this is the kind of place I want to be living in, and I really don't trust this landlord at all. I feel like he is trying to use us because we are young, and he backs out of everything he tells us.

So he has cashed our first $550 for the security deposit (which we gave only 5 days ago), and he is now refusing to return it to us. We have definently decided to not live in this filthy place, but can he keep our $550? It's not Sept 1st, and it's not even the 15th of this month which he said he'd prorate it for. Are we just screwed on getting that money back?

Any advice is greatly appreciated~
 

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Discussion Starter #3
I'll have to review it but I didn't see anything in the contract about the security deposit, except for that it may be held after we move out if there are repairs to be made. The contract is very very basic, like 2 pages without a lot of information on it.

My girlfriends father rents two properties and just informed us that since the landlord didn't have us sign Walk-Through papers, stating what is good and bad about the house, that the lease is null and void, and we'd get our money back. I sure hope so, this has been a gruesome experience for us. I have even gone through and changed my address for my business with the local government licensing.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I'm in Florida, and I was always under the assumption that the laws side with the tenants over the landlords more than not in this state.
 

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A quick Google search for Floria tenant rights brought up these pages:

Local Tenant Rights, Laws, and Protections: Florida - HUD

Florida Landlord/Tenant Law Division of Consumer Services, DOACS

Renter's Right's Handbook

What the contract says is actually less important than what the law says (you can make a contract for anything, it doesn't mean it's legal).

I'm not sure about the laws there (obviously you will have to do some reading) but usually for $550 it would not make sense to hire a lawyer, as their retainer would be more than that. You can usually take someone to small claims court yourself if you need to.
 

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Take photos of the conditions of the house immediately before you do anything else.

You can take him to small claims court and try to get back the $550.

You need to show the house wasn't in the right condition when you got the keys.

The burden of proof i think will be on you so take photos of all the conditions so you have proof.

Especially the roach infestation and water cloggings.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks we have taken photos and have sent him a letter that we do not wish to move there, I guess we'll see what happens. . .
 

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go to where ever you feel comfortable doing so and pray. It sounds like you have met one of the shadiest landloards in the business. Having the law on your side and having the courts send anyone to enforce it aren't always going to go hand in hand.
 

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Hi,

I used to work for an investment firm that managed alot of rental properties. There are a couple of things to take into consideration with this, first thing I would do is get ahold of the fair housing in your area, alot of times they are able to do meditation between tenants and landlords to settle matters without having to go to court.

Usually when a tenant would back out of renting on a move in date, we did keep a certain fee for relisting the unit for rent, and sometimes would collect rent for the period is would sit empty while re renting. If the fair housing cannot help you, small claims may be your only hope of recovery of your deposit. This is where it can get sticky though. Because even though you took pics of the unit, they were before your move in date, and as you stated above the landlord agreed to take care of the issuess before you moved in.

Since you cancelled before the move in date, he can claim that he planned to have it done before you moved in. If he can show that the unit was sprayed before the fifteenth, which is the date you say you were to move in, it might get him out of that situation, as you both agreed to that. It might not work for him, but it could. I dont know what was in your lease agreement and that will depend on alot, of what is stated in it and what you both agreed to. But I would definately contact the fair housing and also see if there is a local renters association in your area, as they also can be very helpful as they mostly protect the renters in these types of situations.

Hope this helps some.
 

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This is indeed a sticky situation.

I got my real estate's license about 8 years ago, and I have several rental properties myself, so I know a little bit about the law and real property.

My advice is to do what BobbieLee suggested and see if you can get some mediation. If not, the only other option is to take it to small claims and hope that the judge is sympathetic to your situation.

In the future, no matter how excited you are about a place (I know that's hard!), never, ever sign the lease or give the security deposit until the property is in the exact condition you want it to be when you occupy it.

No matter how much a property owner tells you "yeah, I'll fix this", or "after you move in, I'll take care this", make them fix it first!

This can go either way. The easiest thing for you, and maybe him, is that he gives you the $550 back and finds another renter, and you find another house.

Or, he can make the case that no matter how much your girlfriend says that he pressured her, she paid for the prorated rent and the security deposit, and now you've just broken your lease agreement. You could potentially be out of the $550 and get sued for the remaining money.

Hope it works out for you.
 

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I'm sorry that you both have had to experience what you've been through.

I definitely feel there are some hard lessons learned here, which I see as:


  • Ignoring the roach infestation in more than one area of the dwelling

  • Disregarding the owner not giving you direct answers on your questions

  • Not listening to your intuition telling you that the owner is "shady"

  • Taking out a loan for a place you want to "rent" vs. buy

  • Wrote a deposit check and gave it to the owner on a dwelling that was unfinished, not in clean nor move-in condition at that time you saw it

  • Looking for too much in what you knew to be a "cheap" dwelling (this is where it's often said, you pay for what you get)

IMO, this should have never been a place you wasted a second on with all of those red flags raised up at you. I'm done fussing. :)

I wish you well with pursuing your $550 and hope that you truly do not move into this place.

AB
 

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Hey Spank, I've been on the losing end of the tenant-landlord situation more then the winning end. I am sorry to say I once rented a beautiful house on the lake with a ingrd pool for $1500/mo. Paid $1500 security, too. We made it look nice, acid washed the pool, groomed the gardens again, paid our rent on time. Had a one year lease. Around 6 months the lawyers sent the eviction notices to us. The guy wasn't paying the mortgage. Yup, we had a month to get out, and of course, since he was pocketing our rent and not paying the mortgage, we were not going to get our security deposit back either. Until you own your own home, these are the burdens of a renter. Not always, but it happens.

In the future, get everything, everything, everything, in writing. If he says the place will be coachroach free by "this" date. Get it in writing. If he say the tub will not be clogged. You guessed it, get it in writing. Write everything done, have him sign it. If he plans to do the work as he says, he won't mind signing it.

I cannot guess what will happen to your money. If you stand to lose it, maybe you will move into the place if you can't afford the financial hit, and try to keep clear of the landlord, and pay the rent on time. If you can afford to lose it, fight for it while looking for some place else.

Here is my ultimate question if you move forward with moving in: if he does not clear the roaches out, can you call the board of health on him?

Even if it is before the 9/1/08 date (have the lease updated to whatever date you move in, if you do move in.) Not that it should be necessary, I have moved into places without a month to month or yearly lease. I didn't live there any less because of it. :)

If the tub is clogged, it also his responsibility. I believe if he does not come to fix it, can't you call a plumber and give the landlord the bill???? Find that out as well. Some plumbers want you to pay, and take it off the rent.

I think the board of health may be your friend if you move in and he doens't make good on his promises. I would not expect my security deposit back at the end of the one year, if I was you. Oh, btw, how we actually got ours back was we refused to pay the last month's rent on the lake house. We felt that was fair. He didn't fight us. He'd also have to hire a lawyer to do so. Wasn't worth it for him.

Mother Hen time: Consider never writing a check for money that is not in the bank, that can get you in serious trouble. In addition to being troublesome, if it bounced and a judge hears that, he'll likely side with the landlord no matter what. I also think you shouldn't let your woman deal with the landlords in the future, she is too softhearted of a woman. The man took advantage of her politeness and good manners.

Good luck to you both, I hope you get the money back and move somewhere else so your future is started on this note. ~ fingers crossed ~ things go well for you guys.. :)
 

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This is just my opinion and from past experience from working in this field for many years, that because he cancelled the checks before the 15th and already signed the lease, he may be in a bind. It would be different if he went to move in on the 15th as the lease stated and these things werent fixed, then he would have the right to get out of the lease, but because he cancelled before the agreed date, it changes things. technically because the landlord basically made the agreement for the 15th, it gives the landlord till that time to fix his problems. I still think the best bet is to go to fair housing and seek some type of mediation to remedy the situation, if not try small claims but I dont know how strong of a case it would be.
 

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I too, am sorry that you are going thru this, I am a landlord too, and there are alot of problems here,.
1. If the lease says move in day is Sept 1 , that is the day to move, it, if you do so earlier, you will have to pay prorated days, and the contract begins when you take the keys, whether you live there or not. all money is to be paid on the acceptance of keys. (You should have said no, to moving in early).
2. Roach Problem, If this ever happens again, ask to have a copy of roach hunters fee and work in your hands, after they have sprayed. So you know if was taken care of, and then you will move in,
3. Call your local city rental inspector and get them out there asap. You dont let them in, they will be ahold of the landlord and make a surprise inspection.
4.Get those keys back to the landlord.
5. Get ready for small claims court, cuz he can take you there for stopping payment on checks after you took possesion of keys.
Get your pics and rental inspectors report and all documents in order, cuz the judge will make a decision right then and there.
6. tell your girlfriend never write a check like this again, if pushed into a situation again that she cant make a rational decision, she needs to say I need to talk to the other party involved,, (you)
If he would have cashed those, she could have had a warrant out for her.
Please do stick to the facts in court, Standing water in tub, roaches, unlivable conditions,, check the screens on windows, all this in unexceptable, living conditions.
You many not get this $$ back, but with the right paper work you may get out of a judgement for all the rent in the lease for as long as it was.
Pictures speak 1000 words before a judge. I always take pics before someone moves in and after so if they tell me we did not scratch the wood floors, i can pull out the pics of before they moved in and after,,
If I can help let me know,, and i dont mean to sound harsh, I have been on the landlords side and saw some of the worst things i have seen in my life in my own apt, from tenants. I have learned the laws, and tenants rights, to protect my buildings and my other tenants:p
Sandy JO
 

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Discussion Starter #15
This is exactly why I posted this! Thanks all of you who have answered, and hopefully this'll be a nice lesson to anyone looking to rent a home or a space for business.

We had all of our pictures and documents ready in case of whatever happened. My girlfriend eventually talked to him throughout the day, and reexplained all the problems. I guess the Feng Shui worked in my cubicle, because luck was with us: He found another tenant immediately and has the place ready to rent for them.

That means that he wrote a check back to my girlfriend for the money cashed, and tore up the other two checks along with the lease. I'll definently say we got out pretty easy on this one, and this was a big lesson in life for the both of us. Thanks to everyone for their support, advice, and stories! Cheers!
 

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I am so glad it worked out well for you :) We all learn the best lessons from experience.
 
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