Q: My tenants left without a 60-day written notice required by their lease agreement. One day they just send me a text message that their lease expired and the keys are on the kitchen counter top. Of course they did trash the place. I even found dog poop in the house, when they were not authorized to have pets in. My husband spent 86.5 hours fixing the property (carpentry, painting, cleaning, yard work) and I spent 15 hours of cleaning as well. Their security deposit was $1000 which covered materials. Can we charge for our time and labor and is $12/hour reasonable for his labor and $10/hour for mine when we go to small claim court?
A: Generally, yes. You can keep their security deposit to use in repairing damage they caused. Plus, if you sue them, you can charge materials and a reasonable labor rate for repairs to damages as long as it wasn’t normal wear and tear you are fixing. You need to keep a record of everything, take photos and you also may want a contractor to put a written repair estimate together, so your estimate appears reasonable. Sometimes court view high damage bills from landlords who do the work themselves with suspicion. Remember to respond to their written request for their security deposit in writing informing specifically them of why the deposit will not be returned.