What is The Purpose in Writing a Letter to Dispute Claimed Damages?
A letter disputing the damages your landlord is claiming, when well written and with the correct sections, is sometimes all it takes to get a large adjustment in the claims or even eliminate them altogether. Clearly stating why you are not liable for each of the damages you are accused of and citing the security deposit law will let your landlord know that you know. A damages dispute letter can help to ensure either partial or complete security deposit refund.
To begin, be aware of the following:
- If an itemized list of damages has been presented to you in writing by your landlord, in some states you have a specific timeframe to respond which is often as short as 7 days. If this has not been issued, you need to request this from your landlord.
- Knowing the difference between normal wear and tear and real damages can assure you that your response is warranted and written with precision. While leases rarely define this difference, each state has a general outline of what these are. (for a general idea see the table below)
- A checklist that is often filled out and signed by tenant and landlord upon moving in may be available to support your position.
- There is usually a time constraint as to when the landlord must provide a list of damages to you. If a landlord misses this he may be precluded from claiming any damages.
|Rental Damage Examples||Rental Normal Wear & Tear Examples|
What is The Basics Overview of The Damages Claimed Response Letter?
The letter responding to claimed damages should be written like any other business letter, with a formal tone, professional wording and structure, and covering the required sections. It should be sent via certified mail with return receipt requested to retain proof of receipt in the unfortunate event that it needs to be enforceable in court. Each claim needs to be answered, with a well described and defended counter argument. Even if you agree with any of the claims, reference it in the letter for total transparency. Showing you’ve taken the time to look into each claim and are willing to put up a fight shows your landlord that you take his claims very seriously. This letter provides the paper trail of events but always make a copy for yourself of any communication between you and your landlord.
How We’ve Crafted The Response to Damages Claimed Letter?
This letter is business correspondence and is worded carefully to include the necessary arguments to support your claims. Starting with your name and address on top centered (your letterhead) followed by the following lines; Certified Mail Return Receipt, Date, Re: Response Damages Claimed, landlord name and address. And of course opening the letter with formal salutation, Dear Mr./Mrs Landlord.
The opening acknowledges receipt of the letter(and when it was dated and received) that was sent detailing the damages claimed. Then we follow with the reason why you are writing, your recognition of what normal wear and tear is and that you are contesting the damages he is claiming to he rental unit that are beyond this normal wear and tear.
The Letter Body
This is where you need to be as detailed and clear as possible. Each claim and amount assessed needs to be addressed. A general blanket argument against all the claims is not sufficient; you need to show your landlord that you’ve taken his accusations seriously and are willing and ready to argue each and every inaccurate claim. For each specific claim be sure to write the most applicable argument that covers the claim and proves you are not liable. If you have pictures of when you left the apartment, use them to reinforce your case. These are some arguments we’ve used in the past and might help you get started:
- The damages are covered under the normal wear and tear of living
- The repairs that were raised have been fixed
- The claimed damages are not clear, are vague, are missing explanation, are just a general amount with no itemization
- The amount of the damage claim was not stated
- Repeated attempts were made to have the landlord make a repair; it thus became much worse through no fault of the tenant
- The damages were minor and reported by you, the tenant, and not addressed by the landlord so they became more serious
- The damages are due to the landlord neglecting the rental unit
- The amount assessed, even though it’s a valid claim, is excessive (try to discern what the actual amount should be for such a claim)
- The damage was there before you moved in
- The damage is simply not as serious as stated (use photos if possible)
- During the move-out walk-thru inspection the landlord did not mention the claim
Expand upon these, or use your own, and elaborate with as much detail as possible.
After this you can itemize exactly what the claims should legitimately amount to, if anything. Deduct what your landlord can assess from the itemized claims and provide the total amount due to you. Make this amount clear and bold; this is what you are willing to accept.
This is followed by a brief but clear citation of the law in your state that says what a landlord may withhold the security deposit for and/or claim as damages, indicating that your sure he’s aware of this but that you place it here for reference. Often seeing the legal damages he or she can be liable for if they wrongfully withhold your security deposit and make false claims is enough to make them drop the matter. The impact of displaying your knowledge and research sets the tone that you mean business and are willing to take matters further if necessary.
The Letter Conclusion
You may want to offer a reasonable date for him to comply and reply in writing, 10 days is usually sufficient. Creating this paper trail and record of responses can often save you time and money later on. If you’re feeling particularly aggrieved you may want to demand prompt action so that more serious actions need not be taken, and that one business week is the deadline for a response; cite the law in your state about the legal damages your landlord can be liable for if he wrongfully withholds your security deposit.
Indicate that your forwarding address has been included where the payment can be sent to. Thank him in advance for responding promptly to your concern and send it through certified mail, return receipt requested.
What are The Key Points To Remember Key Points When Writing A Damages Claimed Response Letter?
|The Damages Claimed Response Letter Key Points To Remember|
What are The Rental Repair Laws of Each State?
California, New York, Florida, Illinois; every state has different laws and codes pertaining to security deposits, damages, the timeframes, the tenants responsibilities, the landlord’s responsibilities, and the penalties involved to both parties. Depending on the laws in your state, which our letters do take into consideration, your landlord may be liable for double the deposit, triple the deposit, or even more if he acts in bad faith with his claim of damages and the timeframe he’s used.
We at HomeTitan have done all this research for you and have written letters for each state and incorporate that into our damages claimed letter.
How To Avoid Damages Claimed in The Future?
If this letter doesn’t work out, and your landlord gets a large piece of your security deposit, or all of it, it’s best to just consider a few things you can do next time to make sure another unscrupulous landlord doesn’t claim unwarranted damages and try to keep your security deposit. You can use the HomeTitan Checklists and remember some of these tips:
- Report problems, repairs, damages right when they come up
- Keep every document between you and your landlord
- Perform your own assessment of the rental unit when you move in and get your landlord to sign this. If he won’t send him a copy signed by you, certified mail
- Before you move out ask your landlord to do a walk-thru with you in order to see if there are things he thinks are your responsibility; if you agree fix them. If not get a quote on the repair so that your landlord can’t say it costs an excessive amount
- Take photos on the day you move in. Use a digital camera that time stamps the photos. Be sure to take a picture of every potential issue and any wear and tear that is already there, carpets, walls and floors especially.
- Take photos on the day you move out, using a similar digital camera that timestamps.
- Leave your rental unit in a very clean state.
Use The HomeTitan Damage Response Letter
This map indicates what states we currently have letters for as of August 2013. Use the links below to select your state’s Damage Response Letter. We’re working to have letters for all states in just a few months.
Click Your State Below To Purchase The Damage Response Letter
|Alabama||Hawaii||Massachusetts||New Mexico||South Dakota|
|District of Columbia||Maine||New Hampshire||Rhode Island||Wisconsin|
|Florida||Maryland||New Jersey||South Carolina||Wyoming|