Family Living 4 Less

Saving Money Without the Sacrifice!

Never Give Up: Recovering our Security Deposit

Posted by flsquared on October 26, 2009

As you know, this summer presented a number of life changes for us, primarily my husband’s graduation from MBA school and our family’s move to NYC.  We had never moved with a baby before, and now we had 2 boys under 2 years old…. and only 2 weeks to pack and “get out of Dodge.”  We threw our stuff into boxes, loaded up the UHaul the best we could (with help from a couple of friends who were still in the city), and left with 2 sleeping babies at 4am.  After getting stuck in traffic and lost a number of times, we finally arrived at the new apartment–5 hours late!  We were so late that the moving men had left!  We were able to bribe one to come back and help unload, we returned out car and UHaul with minimal penalty fees, and we were in our new home!

Hurrah!  The worst was over, or so we thought.

Pittsburgh is renown (probably not unlike any “college town”) for dishonest management companies who refuse to fix the heat and return security deposits.  After all, tenants rarely stay longer than a year or two and then leave town.  Many are undergrads who party hard and don’t take care of the apartment.  We felt lucky to have a nice, private landlord who was somewhat responsive to our needs but who was, more importantly, a “nice guy”.

Or so we thought.

Shortly after giving notice we realized something was up.  He did not stop by the apartment (which he normally did a few times per month) and he did not return emails or phone calls.  We were unable to schedule a walk-through with him, but didn’t think much about it as we had such a nice relationship with him.  He had, after all, just written a shining recommendation for us to use in our NYC apartment hunt.

After a few weeks, and a few more unanswered emails (and no sign of our deposit), we began to worry.  The State of Pennsylvania gives the landlord 30 days to send a letter returning the tenant’s deposit and/or a letter stating why the deposit would not be returned.  30 days came and went.  Then 45.  No check, no letter.

With my husband working 12 hour days in his new job, my taking care of the babies all day, and no family in the area to help pick up the slack, the last thing we wanted to do was battle this out.  Logistically, going back to Pittsburgh to fight this in Small Claims Court would be a nightmare.  And depending on the transportation costs, when we counted my husband’s vacation days, we may only break even.  But the feeling of being “duped” and powerless did not sit well with us.

So we wrote a certified letter demanding the deposit back.

1 month passes.  No answer.  (big surprise).

What to do?  Did we really want to take him to court?  We learned that we had 3 years to do so and felt a bit better.  We gathered all of the evidence (phone calls, emails, letter of rec, check stubs, etc.) and put it in a folder.  We also talked to a friend who knew a lawyer who may be able to help us.  She said that for $25 she would write a letter.  We decided that it was worth another try.

1 week passes.  Surprise!  We get a certified letter in the mail.  Our landlord had not been kidnapped by aliens after all.  Unfortunately, I am out with the boys and not home to receive it.

The next afternoon, I walk down to the post office, sick to my stomach and just wanting this whole situation to be over.  Would it be a threatening letter?  Would it be the check?  Would it be a form letter from his lawyer saying “bring it on”?

There was no line and I walked right up to the window.  After waiting about 20 minutes for them to find the letter, we walk outside.  It is thin (bad for college applications, but good in this situation!) and I open it.  A check!  For 75% of the amount that he owes us.  I guess he wants to negotiate, but we’ll take it!

Honestly, this was a fight that we really did not have the time or energy to have.  We pushed ourselves and got it done.  It felt good to know that he could not take advantage of us and our situation, and perhaps he would think twice about doing so to another tenant.

And part of that $700 will go towards a nice bottle of champagne to celebrate!

I would love to hear from you–have you fought a “battle” (financial or otherwise) that you felt good about?  Did you “win”?  How did you celebrate?

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: