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To sue or not to sue?

August 3rd, 2009 at 05:46 pm

So we sent a certified letter to the tenants for damages of $1889 for the stove, refrigerator, and wood damage the dog caused.

The tenants received estimates and are disputing the stove because it was at that "magical number" to bring the damages down to the security deposit - so they would give up the security deposit and not pay any more.

They stated it was normal wear & tear and the stove was like that when they moved in. I provided a copy of the receipt when I purchased the stove. It was 7 1/2 months old when the tenants moved in, and they did not note ANY damage or wear to it on their move-in inspection.

However, the new tenants definitely did. As the new tenants wrote "Excessive scratches & two chips in front" for a 2 1/2 year old stove!!! Yet in other rooms, the new tenants would put "Normal wear & tear" - so even the new tenants think the wear is excessive enough to note it on their inspection.

I've consulted with a JAG Lawyer who said I'm 100% on the side of the law considering these tenants removed a city tree, left the gutters up & let it pool at the foundation, caused the HVAC unit to be replaced from putting filters in that were 2 inches too small & causing visible dust accumulation on the air vents & ductwork.

Not to mention we included in the letter the damages to the curtain rods & flooring. We didn't include estimates for those because we weren't pursuing them... I felt the letter asking for just $364.91 over the security deposit was fair.

The flooring in the master bedroom was $2.29 a square foot. It can't be refinished because it is laminate & their computer chair wore a faded circle in it. The room is 12x14 so the flooring alone is $384... not to mention labor.

The curtain rods were $13.96

But we didn't include those estimates because we knew that would bring damages to over $2K.

I told the Property Manager to let the tenants know that if they wish to take this to small claims court I am prepared to gather additional estimates for the damages they agreed to in the letter (basically they agreed to the damages but disputed the stove - I only gave estimates on 4 things, refrigerator, siding, wood, and stove). However, there were more things on the list.

When I spoke to the JAG lawyer prior to sending the letter, he said the tenants should look at it like a gift.

I'm wondering though... $52 to go to small claims court & go through the hassle. JAG said they'd help me prepare my case... its a hassle but so was the three weeks we spent fixing up the place for the new tenants.

I don't think I'm being unfair. But I wonder in the back of my head if I should just take the security deposit and leave it at that.

Still yet, I keep remembering what the damages have done to us financially and in our relationship. I didn't get to spend much of July with my husband because one of us was always at the rental trying to fix things & coordinate repairs. We lost a lot because the tenants wanted to let their kids run rampant & be disrespectful.

We are reading a book in my negotiation class... its called Peace v Justice. Boring read but it delves into the concepts of foregoing justice to have peace.

On the flip side, I'm thinking - the tenants should have just been grateful for a bill of $364 vs something more akin to $800 to include the flooring.

6 Responses to “To sue or not to sue?”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    I don't think I can answer this one for you. Part of me would want to just let it go. Chalk it up to getting a bad tenant. It sounds like you have a better one now...be grateful for that!

  2. lizajane Says:

    I think only you can decide this one. It's natural to want to be made whole again for all the extra expenses you incurred, but then again sometimes it's a huge stress relief to just move on. Picture the situation 3 or 6 months down the road. In 3 months, do you want to still be fighting over it? In 6 months, will you be able to tell the difference whether you sued or not?

  3. ambitioussaver Says:

    Thanks guys. The more I think about it, the more I think peace versus justice is better in this situation. In the end, is it worth the headache? Its almost midnight and the issue has still been keeping me up. Thats when I'm sort of glad for those moments of clarity that make me aware this is robbing me of time I could be focusing better energy elsewhere versus getting even.

    I think I may just let the karma police take over this one. In the end it will all balance out.

  4. Personal Finance Blog Says:

    It is hard to say from person to person,I say just let it be.

  5. whitestripe Says:

    don't you have rental insurance? will that cover it?

  6. Joan.of.the.Arch Says:

    My impression is that you already have s-o-o much on your plate, I can't imagine how you could fit in another thing. It does seem though that you now know a few more real specifics to add to your contract in the future. Like--maybe you need tell everyone they must put a rug or something under a computer chair.

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