I have moved over 27 times in my lifetime. I’ve lived in apartment complexes, rental homes, been a homeowner and also spent time as a property manager. I thought I knew everything I ever needed to know to insure that I never lost a penny of my deposit money. Boy, oh boy was I recently proven wrong by my Vancouver, Washington landlord Zenith Properties. The sad part is that as a tenant I think I did everything right, but my landlord found a way to still take $457.37 and some out of our deposit money.
Here is what happened and in the end feel free to comment about who you think is right and who is wrong. I also give you tips at the end on how not to let this happen to you.
On October 19, 2011 my husband and I rented a short-term property from Zenith Properties. At the time of our rental the yard was full of moss, weeds, clovers, dead patches of grass from dog urine, along with planters filled with dead plants and weeds. We maintained the yard during our residence to the best of our abilities given the unhealthy nature of the yard when we moved in.
On June 16, 2012 I received a notice from my landlord requiring that we needed to weed the yard. I had my landscapers weed pull up every weed for several hours. On the same day I, personally, went over every single inch of the yard, beds and pots with Round-Up to kill tiny weeds and roots of weeds.
On June 29th I walked through the yard with the maintenance manager prior to my move out date. He told me that I had until July 1, 2012 to remove every single weed. Within the two weeks since we weeded the entire yard by hand and with Round-Up more weeds had popped up. My landscaper had two people come on June 30, 2012. They spent 4 hours for a total of 8 hours to remove every single weed again by hand and with a weed puller. As of July 1st the yard at John Torres said that he would re-inspect the yard by July 2, 2012. My lease with Zenith Properties was over on June 30, 2012.
On June 30, 2012 the yard was 100% free of weed the maintenance manager did not show up to re-inspect the yard until July 10, 2012. By that time weeds had re-infested the yard. Had the maintenance manager inspected on June 30th or when he promised to return on July 2nd he would have found the yard to be completely weed free. The evidence of this claim is that we had weeded only two weeks prior to my walk through with the maintenance manager and the weeds were back.
Zenith Properties charged me for six hours of weeding for a total of $457.37. It is my contention that I was no longer responsible for the condition of the yard July 10th when the maintenance manager returned to the property to inspect. My responsibility for the yard ended on June 30, 2012.
The maintenance manager told me in person and in writing that the tenants before me did not take care of the yard. I do not know if the tenants before me where the original cause of the yard becoming a bed of weeds, dead grass and moss with patches of grass or if the problem started even before the previous tenants. I do know that I inherited a yard in which the soil has been oxygen depleted for so long that the only thing that can grow and will grow abundantly is weeds and moss. We inherited a yard that was so overtaken with weeds that even weekly weeding could not have fixed.
Zenith Properties has been unwilling to budge on this issue. I gave them ample opportunity to respond and fix this issue. As a matter of a fact it took a phone message, email and finally a certified letter to get them to respond at all to my requests. I sent them a final request to resolve the issue on August 29, 2012 and again sent them a copy of this blog with ample time to respond earlier this week.
As of today this issue remains unresolved.
Top 5 Ways to Protect Yourself
- Inspect every aspect of the exterior and interior of your new rental.
- Put in writing and photograph every abnormality that you see when you inspect your new rental prior to your move in date. Make sure that your photographs are date stamped. Keep a copy of all documentation handy.
- If you have pets and are required to make a pet deposit purchase a black light to inspect the carpets and walls. We did this in our Zenith Property house and found that they had not disclosed that the previous tenant’s dog had urinated all over the carpets throughout the house. Thank God I had documented this with Zenith Properties prior to moving in.
- Leave the home in the same or better condition than you took it over. My experience as a property manager taught me how to make a house move in ready. This means that you deep clean every surface in every corner of the house. There are no guarantees, but generally this will save you quite a bit of money upon move out.
- Do a walk through with your property manager prior to move out and on the exact date of your contract ending. I had left the area by June 30th which allowed Zenith Properties to wait 10 days to show up and re-inspect my yard.
What do you think? I hope my tips help you as a tenant.
Luci Smith says
Personally I think it is crazy. The fact that they came out several days AFTER your lease ended makes them at the wrong. You are only responsible for up to the date you moved out. Very crazy. This is the first I have ever heard of a situation involving weeds. CRAZY.
Please keep us updated on this.
Thanks Luci! I insisted on photographs because I trust the people who did the yard completely. When the photos came and the date showed up as 10 days after I was done with the lease they stopped communicating with me.
Dawn Jones says
For a living, I do property management. The growns are maintained where I work; however, I would not think too many places would expect every weed be removed from the lawn. I can see the flower beds, driveways, sidewalks, play areas, sand boxes, flower pots, and rock gardens would need to be weeded. As far as the grass, a good weed and feed would take care of most of the problem. If a weed is growing after that, at least it is green. Documentation with photo evidence is the best way to show your part in court. I would take the company to small claims court for a refund of deposit, etc. Did you take photo evidence of the weeding when you moved out? I would also do an inspection with management prior to the end of the lease and make an appt. for that inspection ahead of time. There are several moving at the same time and you want yours inspected. Thanks for reading. Dawn
Thanks Dawn. I did a walk through a few days prior to my lease being up because we were leaving to drive across the country. I used to be a property manager and wanted paperwork from the inspection, but they refused. They said in WA State they were not required to provide it.
Thanks for adding some great tips too!
Wow, property owners are so laid back here in New england and I would think any yard maintenance by a tenant would be a bonus. I’ve heard of people mowing the lawn for the owner and getting money off their rent. When I rented, the owner would come over a few times a year to clean the yard up (there was no grass to mow). We painted when we moved in… and when the girl downstairs moves out he redid a bunch of stuff. Have you tried taking them to small claims court?
We have moved across the country and they know it. But small claims court isn’t out of the question. We just might go that route.
Brooke LaFevre says
Wow! This is such a no-brainer. They inspected the property AFTER your lease expired. You owe them nothing.
Oh wow, around here they just ask you to mow before a tractor had to be brought out (one of our landlords did bring a tractor out!) Weeds?? Do you have pics from the you moved in? Doesn’t a lease normally state that the property must be returned in the condition it was given? Well, if this yard was given to you in this condition then haven’t you met your end of the bargain?
We don’t have pictures from moving in. I have witnesses that remember seeing that the yard was in terrible condition. That is why in this blog post I am advising taking photos upon move in.
But I do have in writing and was told verbally twice that the previous tenants did not take care of the yard, which would mean it was sick prior to our move in. They sent the pictures of the weeds dated July 10th and my lease was up June 30th.
Wow! That us absurd. The property management is definitely in the wrong!