Protecting Your Pocketbook in Landlord

Protecting Your Pocketbook in Landlord/Tenant Disputes

Protecting Your Pocketbook in Landlord/Tenant Disputes


Protecting Your Pocketbook in Landlord/Tenant Disputes


By Sriram Rangan – Licensed Paralegal


In the excitement of moving into a new rental home or apartment, new tenants often fail to protect themselves and, ultimately, can end up paying thousands of dollars in damages when they move out. We all like to think that landlords are open and aboveboard, but the truth is, there are some unscrupulous landlords who use poorly prepared tenants as a convenient way to upgrade rental units with expensive items like new floor coverings, paint, counter tops, and to repair other damages that may have been there prior to the tenant’s move-in date.


Recently, in Ontario’s Small Claims Court, a former landlord sued former tenants for damages in amount of $6,293.05. The landlord claimed three months’ lost rent following the date of termination and for damage.  The landlord claimed damages including the cost to remove personal items left behind by the tenants, to replace the carpeting, countertops, and the dishwasher, along with various and sundry other damages. He also claimed that the time it took to affect these repairs resulted in a vacancy of the unit for three months.


Following the move of the tenants, there was a delay of two weeks when the landlord claimed he did not know the unit had been vacated. When he “realized” the unit was empty, the landlord proceeded to paint the unit and install new carpets and blinds and a new dishwasher, the unit was cleaned and finally it advertised for showing and re-rental.


This story, unlike others, has a happy ending. After considerable time and distress on the part of the former tenants, the court ultimately found that the landlord did not adequately document the need for the repairs done, nor did he justify the over-long time it took to affect such repairs as were necessary. Since the carpeting was over ten years old and was, therefore, due to be replaced anyway, the court held that the tenants were not responsible for replacing it. Ultimately, the tenants were charged only $570.00 instead of the thousands of dollars requested by the landlord.


As a renter, it is important that you take steps to protect yourself from predatory landlords who would upgrade their rental units at your expense. Here is a list of tips that will help you keep Your money in Your pocket:


Make a careful move-in inspection list of any and all damage that exists within the unit. This means that if there are knife marks, scratches, or burns on the kitchen counter-top, write them down and photograph them to document the problem.


Take time and date stamped photos of walls, floors, ceilings and countertops throughout the unit. Don’t forget to take pictures inside closets and of the inside of bathroom vanity and other cabinetry where holes in walls can hide. Take close-up photos of any damage you find and carefully note the condition of all appliances on your move-in inventory list.


Particularly in cases of rental homes, be sure you include any outbuildings, the garage, and the condition of the landscaping, windows, and siding. Re-landscaping or residing a property can be painfully expensive, and if you fail to note damage or dis-repair, you could easily find that cost on your final bill as damage you created.


If you find the unit to be dirty or damaged in any way, photograph the area(s) and note it carefully on your move-in inspection sheet.


Put your date-stamped photos on a disc and file them with your inventory list. It is critical that you also make a copy all materials and deliver them to the landlord as well. (If he has any designs on your bank book, he will immediately understand that he’s dealing with a savvy tenant and probably leave you alone.)


If there is any damage for which you are responsible, ask that you have an itemized statement of the cost to repair the damage including time and materials for your file so that you will have a complete record of the cost.


When the time comes to move, be sure that the landlord or someone representing him comes with you to do a post-move inspection of the property. (It is essential that the landlord is present for this inspection. If the landlord or his representative cannot accompany you immediately, set a different appointment. If there is any delay that could result in additional pro-rated rent, make note of the reason for the delay so that, if there is a dispute later, you have the facts on paper.)


Ask the landlord to sign and date a statement that he/she has been given the keys to the property. This statement doesn’t have to be fancy – just write “keys returned” and have him date his signature. This way, there can be no confusion about the date you relinquished the property.


Spending a little time in inspection before you move into a new rental apartment or home can save you thousands of dollars later on.


If you find yourself in a legal battle with a landlord, (or a tenant,) Vagans Legal Services can help. We are well versed in real estate matters particularly with regard to Landlord and Tenant rights. Call us today. We’ll be happy to help you if you are embroiled in a dispute.



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