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.