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Old 06-22-2011, 11:31 AM
 
10 posts, read 16,521 times
Reputation: 10

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Ill try to make this short but with necessary detail...

We are renting a TH from Long and Foster, which was in mediocre condition when we moved in: slight cracks in walls, vents hanging from ceilings, broken appliances, abused doors/fixtures, and just in bad, neglected condition...But not unsanitary per se. However, on day 2 we discovered THOUSANDS of roaches and had to hassle the rental office to have it taken care of, which they did a mediocre job of. They only allowed 2 days from the last (excuse me but DISGUSTING) tenant to move out before we moved in, and did not adeqautely have this place livable. Our lease dictates we must have it in working order, inspected for pests, and in pristine condition, something we were not given the courtesy of upon move in. Its been hell since dealing with these people and the owner.

It is now time for us to move out. Last month, I got married, and we have two big dogs that shed quite a bit. We have boxes in our living room from wedding gifts and such, as well as in our upstairs spare room since we ran out of places to put things. Since we are moving soon, there was no need to unpack the gifts just to move them. There is a new dining room table temporarily sitting in the living room that we purchased for our new home, so its a bit cluttered, but not a mess. Additionally, since we are moving we do have boxes prepared to move our things, so its a bit in disarray as we begin to leave within the next 30 days, but clean and in common shape anyone who was moving would expect to find it. The property manager, rude and unaccomodating as she is, actually walked through the property and took PICTURES of the dog fur that was on the floor and the inside of our fridge, among other ridiculous things to photograph. Dogs shed, we vaccum, and have a pet deposit, and saw no reason for this. Things spill in a fridge, which gets cleaned. Why she took petty photos of this is beyond me. We think they are going to try to put us together pretty badly since we have been a problem to them with our complaints about the place.

Anyway, she sends the following email to me:


"During my last inspection, I found the property to be unsuitable for marketing. Per your lease, page 4, paragraph 21 ‘Tenant Maintenance Obligations,’ item ‘A’ the tenant is responsible for maintaining the premises in a clean and sanitary condition…

I am not able to market the property in its present condition. You are in violation for not maintaining the property in proper, sanitary conditions. The inability to market the property results as a loss to the owner.

Please contact me when the property is in showing condition. For every day I am unable to market, you will be charged a daily pro-rated rental amount."

This BLEW me away. My home is not unsanitary or unlivable by any means and I was offended. We will have the place cleaned, lawn watered, pests checked, etc. upon our move-out date, as expected. Until then, I find it insane that she is dictating, essentially, that we make the place a showroom for her potential clients and intends to FINE us if we do not. We are moving, we cannot keep this place "marketable" to her liking as if we dont still live here. I have asked for an itemized list of things she is accusing us of not keeping well and to fix before I will pay her a DIME more than my rent.

What can I do??? I dont know what my next steps are, but I feel like I need to do something proactive so I dont end up the victim of this horrible company and a double standard.
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Old 06-22-2011, 12:32 PM
 
734 posts, read 1,728,175 times
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Where are you living? I know Fairfax has a tenant's rights document that spells out what it necessary and legal for landlords to demand of you.

Also, check your lease. While landlords can and sometimes do include clauses that won't hold up in court, often they are silent on some matters such as this one. This one, frankly, is dubious to me even if it is in the lease. As long as the apartment is in decent shape as of the end of the lease- when you actually move out- you would seem to meet all requirements to leave the place habitable.

Did you take pictures when you moved in? If so, good, because you will have evidence of all that was not in good working order beforehand (and therefore should not be required to repair). However, make sure you also take photos when you move out, so that there is no undocumented dispute over the condition or X, Y, or Z.

Many property managers will huff and puff about violations and may try to withhold some of the security deposit. However, when a tenant pushes back with knowledge and evidence, they quickly fold because they know how badly and expensively they would lose in small claims court.
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Old 06-22-2011, 12:34 PM
 
10,595 posts, read 12,083,065 times
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Get a quick consult with a real estate attorney (or one that handles renters). You should hopefully only need one visit. Outline your case and have him, as your representive, send a letter to her that you will leave the house in the condition you moved in and will provide basic cleaning when you leave.

She may just be trying to bully you. Those types will often back right off when they see a lawyer is involved. Unfortunately for you, you will have to pay an attorney.

I am also really hoping that you have some sort of documentation on the condition of the property when you moved in other than your word.
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Old 06-22-2011, 12:41 PM
 
5,329 posts, read 6,119,231 times
Reputation: 2619
I'm not a lawyer, but I'm a landlord (non-professional, just my own property).

Typical leases make the tenant responsible for keeping the premises, fixture, appliances, etc, "as clean and safe as their condition permits." There is nothing I've ever seen in a lease that requires a specific level of cleanliness for the purposes of showing the property to prospective new tenants or anything regarding marketability. Since the landlord quoted the lease to you concerning your responsibilities, you should quote to her the allowed recourse for a violation.

If you are in violation of the lease (sounds very doubtful), the landlord's ultimate recourse would be to terminate the lease. That's not an option for her since you've given notice to vacate already.

In cases of lease violations that can be remedied by repairs or cleaning, if the tenant refuses to correct the violation, the landlord may hire someone to do the work and bill the tenant. The landlord has to notify you they are scheduling such work. A daily fine for non-compliance is not permissible, as far as I know, unless your lease specifically mentions it. There are some real estate professionals on this forum that may have experience with this situation.

The only requirement I see in standard leases regarding showing property to prospective new tenants is that the current tenant must allow access to the property for the landlord/agent and prospective tenants. The landlord is allowed to recover actual damages if you refuse access.

I know it's galling that you're being treated this way when the prior tenant got away with much worse, but that doesn't really have any bearing on what your responsibilities as tenant are (or aren't) - the landlord doesn't have to be an equal opportunity jerk! Could be some retribution for your complaints back when you moved in.

Hire a cleaning service to go over the place after you've moved out, and have the receipt and photos in case you have to go to court to recover your security deposit, which given landlord's actions, I expect will be withheld. Don't rely on your own cleaning, even if meticulous. When a landlord's proven to be so picky, you'll want documentation of professional cleaning.

Before then, write a to-the-point letter specifying your obligations under the lease, and the fact that you will deliver the premises back in clean condition upon vacating. I would refuse to pay any pro-rated penalty, unless someone comments after me with more professional experience, to the contrary. I'd had disputes where there was a lot of bluster but the person backed down after I was very thorough in laying out the facts and the legal rights and responsibilities. Some people expect others to just roll over.

Good luck, and hope your next place works out better.
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Old 06-22-2011, 12:47 PM
 
1,623 posts, read 4,322,617 times
Reputation: 1291
You might want to contact a tenant union or some nonprofit to help you mediate this situation. Maybe even the BBB. They probably have way better advice than what you'd get here.

If it was me, I'd vacuum and clean your fridge and sent them via email lots of pictures of the unit to the property manager (and the broker for the Long and Foster Office) to let them know that your unit is clean and in a sanitary condition. I would also let them know that their characterization of the unit not being in clean and sanitary condition is incorrect, as those terms do not mean perfectly clean nor are you required to keep the unit in move out condition prior to moving out to show to prospective renters. I'd probably also put some language that I will attempt to vacuum prior to any showing with advanced notice and keep the unit in neat condition to facilitate getting the unit rented again.

Then I would call the broker (being nice) to get the property manager to back off her aggressiveness. Don't focus on the terrible condition when you moved in or be argumentative, just you want to end the headaches for all involved and get the place rented again. I would think 90% of the time that would do the trick.

If you don't think the broker will tell the property manager to back off. I'd send a letter stating that if they persist in insisting the unit is not clean or in sanitary condition, I would consider action to the contrary to be in bad faith and I would pursue all available options at my disposal.

I'd probably also send the property owner (get records through the county) the letter and email. Any legal fees paid by Long and Foster would be charged to the property owner, so they might tell the property manager to back off if they know you'll try to facilitate getting the unit rented again (vs. trying to screw them over).

If they do charge you a fine, file complaints with the real estate commission, BBB, and consider suing them (both Long and Foster and the property owner) in small claims.

By the way, when I see the clean and sanitary issue in court, it is usually at the crazy cat lady level. A messy apartment between vaccumings would never win. I think this is all about the property manager wanting you to vacuum before they show the TH and are being a jerk about it.
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Old 06-22-2011, 02:09 PM
 
10 posts, read 16,521 times
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Thanks everyone for your comments, they really helped.

We are leaving because we hate the house, L&F, and simply just cant wait to get the H out of there for better accomodations that are newer and more affordable.

I wont be using the "the old tenants did X, Y, Z" argument because I know that has no bearing on me. BUT, they left the place cockroach infested, with no working fixtures, broken appliances, a mangled yard, damaged and abused walls, etc. And L&F did NOTHING to remedy it before we moved in, which is part of THEIR requirement per our lease to provide a sanitary, working, functional home to us. They even refused to sign an addendum before we moved in reiterating that the place would be in orderly, working, sanitary condition. Should'a run for the hills then!

In any case, the lease (where she quoted it) says: "Maintaining the premises in a clean and sanitary condition and disposing of trash and waste in sealed containers is required. Any fines incurred for failure to comply with said laws willl be promptly paid by tenant to landlord." However, she never gave us any example of WHAT she felt was unsanitary or unclean. I mean, seriously, I am NOT the crazy cat lady with trash and waste and disgusting living conditions. There are also 4 people and 2 dogs in my house, so naturally, clutter here and there, dog hair between vaccuuming, and other daily messes are bound to be present.

I intend to talk to BBB, her supervisor, or a real estate pro to see where I stand. I think she is just trying to bully us into making the place to HER liking rather than because its in "violation." I fired back my reply earlier:

"Hello ----,

First and foremost, you will need to provide us with an actual itemized list of things that need to be reviewed to your satisfaction. Citing our lease and your dissatisfaction gives us absolutely no insight into what exactly you felt was not “livable.” Particularly since so many of the items in our lease were not met for us when we moved in, at the negligence of Long and Foster and the owner. This property was neglected when we walked through it and looked like a dump, yet you still permitted us to walk through to consider renting it. Ms. ---- ------, who showed me the property, apologized for the disgusting state of the home, and was embarrassed to have taken me there, but promised me that Long and Foster would make the place livable and sanitary for us, which has been an issue since day one. Additionally, both Long and Foster and the owner neglected this home after the previous tenant moved out and while they lived there, and allowed us to live in a run-down, cockroach infested home with faulty plumbing and broken appliances. Two days in between tenants was not enough, clearly, based on the condition of this home when we arrived. We are leaving this home in better condition than when we found it, so pardon me for my shock that you NOW find it unlivable.

As per our lease, we are permitted to have two dogs, both of which are present in the home and have done no significant damage or caused any issue, and dog hair is expected. Furthermore, we have a dog deposit for any kind of animal-related damage or repair necessary at the time of our MOVE-OUT. Until then, dog hair will be present in some form. Regrettably, there was more dog hair than usual present at your walk through because our vacuum has been less than cooperative and has since been fixed, however we regularly vacuum and mop the floors, and will plan to do so regularly until we move out. Otherwise, this home is quite livable. More livable than when you permitted us to live in it two years ago. The refrigerator and tubs, toilets, and appliances are cleaned weekly or bi-weekly, and are in working condition. As we all know, it has rained since spring started, and the lawn is growing twice as fast as normal. This is also mowed bi-weekly and will be done before we move out and periodically as it grows until then. There is no open trash or unsanitary item or circumstance present; and the word “sanitary” and “livable” are entirely open to interpretation as it is. There is adequate egress for emergency vehicles, and there is no clutter prohibiting access to exits and stairwells. The only assumption I can make that you find unlivable is that we actually live here. We cannot make this place appear as a “showroom” for your potential tenants because we live here. We have boxes, furniture, personal items, and pets. Unless Long and Foster is planning to pay for a storage unit for our things while we pack in order to make the place look pristine and as a showroom, we will not be removing the boxes or refrain from packing or creating any type of “mess” as we are MOVING. You cannot expect us to keep this place looking like a showroom until the day we move out, something we will not be PAYING you for as a fine.

The fact of the matter here is that this home was not in good condition when we arrived. We have many photos of the doors, windows, wall fixtures, wallpaper, and appliances that were broken, abused, or neglected upon our initial move-in date. The lawn was littered with realty signs and trash. The toilets were chipped and old, the walls had dents and hair-pin holes, the vents were hanging from the ceilings, the blinds in the basement were covered in moldy, coppery mess and had to be replaced, and the blinds and wallpaper in each room were old, abused, and neglected. We can only improve so much upon this awful mess to make the place livable. That being said, the home is not in good condition for reasons that predate us and are not within our control or responsibility. If there are issues other than the dog hair and necessity to simply spruce the place up to make it look presentable, then we need to know rather than be told with ambiguity that we will be fined. Until we are made aware of this, it will not be to our negligence to fix whatever issues you have with the place, and we will not pay one dime more than our rent until the specific issues you need fixed are addressed so that we can fix them.

The home will be professionally cleaned, free of our things and all trash and dog hair, lawns cut, inspected for vermin/pests, and in good working order in all other areas on 7/31/11 by 3PM for our walk through. Until then, it will be in the most manageable state of clean that is possible while we prepare to move and are packing our things, and you can expect nothing more than that as we are not required to stage the place to your liking while we live here and are still tenants with the right to keep our home in whatever order we please within manageable and sanitary conditions of our lease."
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Old 06-22-2011, 02:25 PM
 
734 posts, read 1,728,175 times
Reputation: 762
K,

Well, that was definitely a stern email. I might have taken a little of the edge off, but I think you got your point across. However, they have no case based on the clause you presented. There seems to be no fine issued by a municipality because of your care of the house, and that's all that clause talks about.

Just keep living there, clean the place well before you leave (and forget professional cleaners. If you do a good job and take photos, they can't touch you for not getting it professionally done). However, limit your responses back to L&F, even if the leasing agent is raising your ire. You don't want to say or write anything that could be interpreted as a threat, legal or otherwise.
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Old 06-23-2011, 10:15 AM
 
10 posts, read 16,521 times
Reputation: 10
Thanks for the follow up feedback. I am not surprised to report that we have yet to get a reply to that email, sent yesterday morning. For each day we have no list of what they claim needs fixing, if they issue fines, we will take them to small claims court along with my email correspondence to reclaim any "fines" they pull from our deposit for those days based on the fact that we were not advised what needed to be fixed in any clear representation. Until then, Im just minding my P's and Q's.

I find it interesting that they sent us a letter yesterday though. In March we accidentally sent our rent in in two checks instead of just writing one, and the office manager advised that we could not do it in the future (its in the lease but we had never done it before, so we blanked, our fault!) but he would accpet the two checks this "one time" so we could avoid late fees. Guess what arrived in the mail yesterday?

A letter stating we owe $200 in late fees for our March rent 3 MONTHS ago. Taking some time to cool off on this before I do anything...Its their word against mine since we discussed that over the phone, but it doesnt make me any less enraged....Taking a chill pill for now!
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