Complaint: Charged for items and services that were excluded from the lease agreement in return of security deposit.
We moved in to a rental property March 1st, 2012 at **** *********** Drive, *********, Ca XXXXX. we signed a 1 year lease.
We paid $2,495.00 for a security deposit with an additional $500.00 pet deposit. Prior to moving out, we had a pre-move inspection which according to Civil Code 1950 they are required to notify us of any issues that need to be resolved so that we could remedy any deficiencies. They did not. We also moved out on December 28th, notified them of our move out date, yet they did not return our deposit within the 21 days as required by law. We did not recieve a check until January 23rd that they claimed was an estimate. We then received another final check on 2/16/13 with an explaination.
The lease specifies that the landlord shall maintain the garden, landscaping, trees and shrubs. In our move in inspection, we noted that there were dead trees and shrubs on the property.
We also noted on the move in and in subsequent emails that the drip system was not working properly. We even received a letter from the management company stating that as a friendly reminder all landscaping or alterations to the grounds needs to be approved by the owner.
The 2nd check we received included deductions for replacing trees that were already dead when we moved in, paying for the labor and clean up of the yard. This also included gas and dump fees.
The gardener alleged he was not allowed access to the spklinker system. The timer was located in the garage and we were home most of the time that he was there. He never asked to review the sprinkler timer. Even if we were not there, he could of at any time checked the system by merely turning on the sprinkler valves that are located outside. He was never denied access to the yard.
We were also charged for sprinkler work that was done in March 2012 that they now claim was done by our dog. Nothing was ever mentioned until we moved out about this.
We were charged to replace a ceramic pot that we did not break and in the lease, we stated that we were not to be held responsible for any personal articles left by the owners. This was one of many personal articles left by them.
They charged us for moving back and cleaning outside fountains. We moved one when we moved in and moved it back exactly to where it was orginally. They were also outside fountains so not sure what the cleaning involved. In fact,we did not even use them.
They also charged us for 3 outdoor landscaping lights that we noted in our move in inspection and subsequent emails did not work and were broken.
We were also charged an early termination fee of half a month's rent of $1247.50. The amount or that the early termination fee was not specified in the lease agreement. We accepted it however as we had to move to be closer to my daughter's school and we thought that this whole ordeal would be handled honestly. They found a new renter immediately so they were not out any money.
There were no incidents with the inside of the house as we took excellent care of. The only things they deducted us for was the outside landcaping which we were not responsible for and things that were noted on our initial move in inspection.
The total amount of our deposits werre $2,995.00 of which we received $879.94 back. Even with taking into account the early termination fee of $1,247.50 we should have received a total of &1,747.50 of which we only received $875.94 owing us $871.56.
Basically they did not abide by the terms of the lease agreement, charged us for items and services that we had no control over, items that were not damaged by us or that we were responsible for.
Desired Settlement: They are in violation of Civil Code 1950.5 as well as the terms of the lease agreement. We are requesting that the remaining amount of our deposit in the amount of $871.56 be returned to us.
Business' Initial Response
1). The tenants gave us a 30 day notice that they were breaking the lease, per the tenants notice they would be out of the property by 12/31/13. The tenants did not return keys to our office they left keys and remotes at the property, we used our key to get in to do the move out inspection on the 2nd as our office was closed on the 1st, although we did not technically get the property back until the 2nd, we did give them credit for the 1st. The tenants deposit left our office on 1/22/13 (21 days later). We were within our legal time frame. The tenants initially received an estimated deposit settlement as all of the work and/or invoices were not finished/received before the 21 days had expired. During the tenants pre move out inspection the tenant stated that the yard was all like that when they moved in, all the plants were dying and the drip system was a disaster. What was told to her is that she needed to repair anything they or their dog had damaged and if it was noted as being a pre move in condition then they were not responsible for those items.
2). The tenant was not charged for the three redwood trees that were noted and agreed to be either dead or dying when they moved in. They were however charged for three juniper plants that as photos will show were completely alive at the time of move in. Per the gardener, these plants died as a direct result of the tenants continuing the move the drip system, the tenant's dog chewing on the drip system as well as the tenant's dog being **** newly growing vegetation (urinating on, running over and chewing on). The tenants received the letter from our office only after it had been noticed that several potted plants and fountains were moved along with the irrigation drip system, in which the tenant admitted she moved as she felt it was better used in the spot that she moved it rather than in its original location.
3) The only plants the tenant was charged for are 3 juniper plants that were noted and photographed as being alive when they moved in. These plants died as a direct result of the drip system being moved and damaged by the dog. The plants did not receive adequate watering. The labor involved was to dig out the old plants and plant new ones and haul the debris to the dump, all chargeable to the tenant's deposit. The labor charges also included to move back all the potted plants the tenants had moved as well as the fountain. Repairs always come with labor charges so I'm not sure why this tenant thinks that she should be exempt to those.
4) The tenants were informed of the day and time of day the yard would be serviced. The tenant has a very large German Shepard that is very aggressive with barking and jumping on people (as I experienced during the pre-move out inspection). Because of this the tenants were asked to please keep the dog indoors or crated during yard service time as the gardener would not enter the back yard if the dog was loose. On several occasions the gardener would show up and completed front yard service but could not get into the back yard because the dog was left out. The timers could not be checked at the valves only the sprinklers could be checked at the valves. The timers needed to be checked and reset at the timer station inside of the garage. Despite repeated requests from our office and the gardener access was not granted until a couple of months before the tenants vacated and at that point the vegetation in the rear yard had already suffered.
5) The tenants did receive a bill. It was mentioned in the same letter she admits to receiving about not altering the yard or irrigation system. Attached to that same letter was an invoice for work the gardener had to do to correct the problems with the drip system after the tenants had turned off the timer and had moved the drip lines around. The tenant ignored the invoice. Because it was not paid by the time they moved out the final cost was deducted from the deposit as we are legally allowed to do when there is an unpaid balance or any rent and/or associated bills to the property.
6) This was a pot that was part of the front entry décor (exterior, not interior) it was part of the yard/patio decorations and should have been considered permanent by the tenants, not personal property left behind. The tenants broke the base of the pot when moving it (unauthorized and without a proper equipment to do so) the tenants tried to glue the clay pot back together unsuccessfully. The tenants were charged the depreciated value of the pot and the owners had to replace both pots (matching set on either side of the door) absorbing the cost increased price and the second pot so that they could get a matching set to go back in front of the door as it was prior to these tenants moving in.
7) The tenants did not move the fountain back (photos to prove it). The tenants in fact unplugged the fountain and allowed it to fill with stagnate rain water and debris, never cleaning it before vacating. When they moved it they actually broke a piece of it off and attempted to glue it back on which created a leak in the fountain. This had to be repaired correctly with water resistant sealant as the glue did not hold and clumped up changing the initial look of the fountain.
8) The tenants were not charged for any exterior lighting, while repairs and replacement of some of the exterior walk way lighting was on the gardeners invoice it was not charged to the tenants deposit as it was noted as a pre move in condition that some of the walk way lights were damaged and/or not operating correctly when the tenants moved in. The tenants received a breakdown of all charges and it was clearly noted that on each invoice what expenses they were being charged for and what expenses the owners were absorbing.
9) The early termination fees are clearly outlines in the lease agreement. The tenants also spoke with our office manager on the phone before turning in the 30 day notice to vacate in which the broken lease fees were explained to her again. At that time it was advised to the tenant that she wait out the lease as it can be very expensive to break a lease. The tenants were also informed in an e-mail from me on 11/15/12 about the broken lease fees (during a conversation about the HOA notices regarding excessive barking day and night from the dog. The tenant said that the notice is what prompted her to move out earlier than expected as they had to place a bark collar on the dog). When the tenants 30 day notice arrived, they were not only sent out the standard acknowledgment of the 30 day notice, but a separate letter once again explaining all the broken lease fees associated with moving early and were told that the owners would not be waiving any of these fees.
10) They were responsible for things that they damaged, they were not responsible for weekly maintenance of the yard, but when they deny access to the yard and timer station they are then responsible for any damage created by their actions. The tenants admitted several times to turning off the irrigation timers as they did not want to pay the increased water bill by having the yard watered as often as the timers were set. They also admitted to moving and turning off exterior fountains to avoid an additional water expense.
11) We held up our end of the lease. The tenants vacated early so they were the ones that broke the lease, we provided everything per the lease agreement that we were supposed to. We handled the security deposit as the law allows us and kept within our deadlines.
12) We have photos of before and after. The tenants were only charged for items that they and/or the dog damaged.
13) Since the final deposit settlement went out our office had not heard from the tenants to dispute any of the items. This was the first dispute to the final deposit settlement that we have been made aware of. The tenants have not tried to resolve the discrepancies with our office or the owners of the property. The owners of the property reviewed, with me, the final deposit settlement before it was sent out and approved all charges. As the owners agent we acted on their behalf in deducting from the deposit and sending out funds to the prior tenants. Had the prior tenants had come to us with discrepancies in their final deposit settlement those concerns would have been shared with the property owners to see if any credit or further refund was in need.
Consumer's Final Response
(The consumer indicated he/she DID NOT accept the response from the business.)
a. Technically the property was vacated on Friday XX-XX-XXXX and per Delta Star's instruction keys and remotes were left at the property.
b. We never claimed "all" plants were dying, this response by Delta Star is just a fabrication of the obvious that some plants were in fact dying but only because of the plants were not getting proper water which was a direct result of the drip system not being connected or working properly. The drip system not working was brought to Delta Stars attention on our move in check list. Because the drip system was never properly repaired we had to compensate for the inadequate drip system and hand water the back hill side, just so the trees and plants on the hill side wouldn't die.
a. If the gardener's claim was truthful many more than just three plants would have died as a direct result of us continuing to move the drip system and the dog's alleged chewing on the drip system, and the dog urinating, running over, and chewing on plants. The fact is she is a female dog and doesn't raise her leg to urinate on any plants, she would urinate on the grass, she never chewed on plants this statement by the gardener too is a fabrication. It is not acceptable for the gardener to use the dog as an excuse for things the gardener was responsible for and refused to take care of.
a. The truth to 3 juniper plants that died was a direct result of an inadequate drip system and nothing to do with damage by the dog or tenant.
b. Regarding labor charges to move back "all" potted plants is another exaggeration by the gardener. The truth is some were moved but definitely not all. Some of the few were moved back to the original location by me and I have photos of one or two that were never moved back by the gardener.
a. At the time we moved in we were informed of the day and time the gardener would be servicing the yards. However it was on rare occasion that the gardener ever arrived on the day or time we were told. The fact is he arrived on Friday's, Saturday's and some times during the week, a Tuesday here and there. Sometimes it would be late morning or early afternoon and sometimes early evening. We were never notified when the gardener was going to arrive other than when we were told originally (Friday afternoons). A simple inquiry of the in and out log at the guard shack would confirm when and what time the gardener would arrive to service the yards.
b. I know of only one time the gardener arrived where the dog was in the backyard, and it didn't stop the gardener from servicing the back yard, in fact the gardener let the dog out and she ran away.
c. We do have an average size German Shepard that is trained and does not jump on people. Don't know why whoever was present at the pre-move out inspection would allege the dog jumps on people when both my wife and I were there and never saw or would allow the dog to jump on anyone.
d. The timer to the irrigation system could have been checked, all the gardener had to do was ask us for access, he never did. On most occasions we were home when the gardener arrived to service the yards, and again not once did he ask to have access to the timer had he we would have surely granted access. Likewise had we ever received a request from the office which we never did, to access the timer we again would have granted access.
a. The work the gardener had to do to correct any problems with the irrigation system including the drip was due to normal operations and had nothing to do with the claim of turning off the timer.
b. In fact at least 3 times the backyard was serviced and the gardener left, it was clear that the gardener sheared off the top of a sprinkler while edging breaking the sprinkler. We fixed the sprinkler without any interruption to the watering schedule.
a. We did not break the base of the pot in the front entry. The fact is that this and other pots were severely deteriorating at the bases. These things happen over time with watering and age. This pot and the others were not broken by us. We did however attempt to repair a piece that had just crumpled away from the base.
a. The claim that the fountain was not moved back to its original location is false. I personally moved the fountain back to its original location.
8) No Response:
9) No Response:
a. Again access to the timer was never denied to the gardener the fact is as stated before he never asked for access.
b. Again not once did the gardener ask to look at the timer, and again had he of course we would have gave him access.
c. In all actually the gardener is supposed to be responsible for all care of the yards and he chose to neglect his responsibility and it is simply not right for him to try and pass on these charges to us.
11) No Response:
a. We too have photos of before and after and we are being unfairly charged for items that the gardener is responsible for.
a. Our complaint with the BBB was not the first dispute to the items we are unfairly being charged for.
b. Our first dispute was in an e-mail to your office on 1-23-2013. This e-mail clearly addresses irrigation system, dead plants, access to timer, pots and fountains.
c. Delta Stars response to our e-mail was not to us but instead to the gardener. It is clear to us that Delta Stars idea of resolving these issues was to give the gardener the opportunity to make false claims and charge us for his gross negligence and lack of responsibilities in servicing the yards.
Business' Final Response
1 a) Our company policy is tenants are never to leave the keys at the property, therefore the tenants statement is incorrect. The tenants were told by our staff member at the time of their pre move out inspection that they should make an appointment with our office to meet them at the property and complete the move out inspection or drop the keys off in our office on the day they vacated. The tenants did neither but rather called our office over that weekend and left a voice message that the keys were left at the property in the kitchen.
b) The tenant says the drip system and backyard was a disaster so they aren't responsible for their actions. Any disaster of the drip system was a direct cause by the tenant or their dog. In actuality the property owner had the entire irrigation system checked prior to occupancy by the tenants. Had the tenants or their dog not disturb the drip system and allowed regular access by the gardener, the three juniper trees would not have died. To be specific again, the three redwood trees along the hill side died because of offseason planting and not because of watering. The tenant was not charged for those trees. But there were three junipers that died as a direct result of not being watered because their dog moved or chewed the drip system.
2 a) Having a German Shepard dog barking and roaming in the backyard, deterred the gardener to regularly service the property. Tenant claims more trees would have died if they moved or their dog chewed up the drip system. We agree and fortunately the damage they did was limited to those areas. The tenant was fully aware of the situation as they were given notices, informed of complaints and communicated via email.
3 a) The drip system did not adequately water that area because the tenant continually moved the drip system and admitted to our staff during inspections in October and during their pre-move out inspection. The tenants felt that the system was placed incorrectly and took it upon them in moving the drip system even though they were asked not to move or change the landscaping.
b) Referencing moving back all potted plants refers to all of the potted plants that the tenants moved including the fountain in the front entry. Photos will show that this fountain was not moved back to its original location. The labor charges include planting new plants, cleaning the fountain out and moving potted plants back to the original locations in both the front entry and back yard. This was a combined labor charge and not just for one item. These items were moved back after the tenants vacated the property, so should the tenant entered onto the property after they left, it would constitute trespassing back onto property otherwise how else would they would have any photos of work the gardener did after they left.
4 a) If the gardener was not arriving at the time and date he was supposed to; the tenants never informed us but instead wish to make this comment now so they can discredit the gardener. It is the tenants are responsibility to inform the property management office of things such as this but these tenants failed to do so.
b) Repeatedly the tenants were asked to keep the dog out of the rear yard on service dates. After this one incident, whenever the dog was in the rear yard the gardener did not enter.
c) When the office staff arrived at the home to complete the pre-move out inspection, the doorbell was rang and on the other side of the door a dog could be heard barking. It took a moment for the tenants to answer the door because they were trying to settle the dog down. When the door was opened the staff member entered only to be greeted by the dog jumping up. The tenants quickly corrected the dogs behavior and put him in the rear yard until the inspection was completed. The dog did have a very loud bark as well. The tenant informed the office staff that ''the dog barks but won't bit''. The dog did appear to be friendly as the tail was wagging the entire time, however had the tenants not been present to control the dog and the situation, any one coming into contact with the dog would have been cautious and/or fearful of the dogs reaction to strangers.
d) The gardener has informed our office several times that access not only to the rear yard but to the timers was not provided by the tenant. Our office repeatedly sent the tenants a notice about granting the landscaper access. Notices were included as part of the same letter the tenant, admittedly received, about not moving items in the yard around.
5 a) The repairs completed to the irrigation system were a direct result of the tenants pets damaging the irrigation system. The tenants not only had one dog, but also had one, possibly two cats as they were seen during inspections including the pre-move out inspection. The cats could have also been the ones that chewed or moved the drip system, especially during the hotter months as the tenants explained that the cats were out door pets. The timers being turned off was the main caused some of the vegetation in the rear yard to die(lack of watering).
b) If any damage was created by the landscaper during service the tenants should have brought this to our attention (which they did not do) so that we could have had repairs completed. The tenants were never told that they had to complete repairs themselves.
6 a) The tenants were charged for one broken pot, not several as we agree that some of the other pots both in the entry way and rear yard were older pots that the plants roots had broken through. The pot that the tenant was charged for was less than 2 years old. It was custom made for the owners to frame the entry door. Photos will prove that prior to these tenants moving into the property the pots were in great condition. Move out photos will show that as a direct result of the tenants moving the pots without permission, the pot was broken. While we do not think the tenants purposely did this and it was most likely and accident, they are still responsible for any intentional and/or unintentional damage to the property during their tenancy. Had the pot just simply crumbled away as the tenants commented, it would have been virtually impossible to glue a solid piece back onto the base. If something broke of no fault of the tenants the correct action would have been to contact the office to report it rather than try to hide it by gluing it back together.
7a) Photos just before move in and at their move out will show the fountain in two different locations. Furthermore the fountain should not have been moved to begin with and defiantly should not have been shut off. Again by moving the fountain it also became damaged, rather than reporting the damage to our office the tenants glued a piece of the fountain back together creating a leak in it.
10 a) Our reports show otherwise.
b) Our reports show otherwise.
c) These are not expenses that the gardener incurred. These are expense that the home owner incurred as a direct result of the tenants actions. The owner has every right to charge the deposit to re-cope some of the out of pocket expense the tenants created for them.
13 a/b) The tenants contacted our office after receiving the estimated deposit settlement. The tenants were at that time informed that all invoices had not yet been received and that we would go over the charges in detail with the home owner once they all came in. The tenants were informed that the amounts on the estimated return may change when the final goes out. They were also informed that once they received the final deposit settlement that should they have any disputes or questions that they needed to put those in written form to our office so that the settlement charges could be discussed with the home owner. This was not at all done. Once the final deposit settlement left our office we did not hear from these prior tenants until we received the BBB complaint.
c) Delta Star has all copies of email exchanges as we are sure the O'Neill's do as well. The responses were sent to the prior tenants and no one else. The emails do not include a CC or BCC in them. The gardener was not emailed at all during this time. All communication with the gardener was via phone or in person both at the property and in our office. The landscaper was never given a chance to make false claims about the property. Information regarding the security deposit settlement was not at all shared with the landscaper. The landscaper was asked about property service during these tenants tenancy and was given instructions on work to complete. Because his invoices included work that the tenants were not responsible for the landscaper meet with our office staff in our office to break down the invoices so that the appropriate charges were assigned to owner/tenant.
In closing, the charges against the tenants deposit were discussed with the home owners several times. The owners decided what was to be charged to the tenants based on the condition they received the property in and again the condition they left the property in. The tenants will not be receiving any additional portion of the deposit back as all charges were justified and reasonable. Should the tenants decide to pursue further through legal channels, our office will gladly defend our position through our legal counsel and a court of law.