Curve Your Enthusiasm Goes Incognita—My Day in Court

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ImageSorry I have been gone the last week or two.  I had to travel back to the town I previously lived in because I had to go to small claims court.  That was so not on my bucket list, but it was something I had to do.

I moved out of my old apartment in July.  It was a lovely place I rented most happily for three years and though I was happy to leave the city, I missed my place.  It was a building from the 1930s, hardwood floors, safe, quiet, close to downtown.  Charming.  Landlord was on the eccentric side but I always paid rent on time and in full, but I never had a problem.

Until I moved out.

I received a letter a month after I moved out informing my I was not going to get one red cent of my $750 deposit back.  The letter stated the apartment was filthy with cat hair EVERYWHERE, wrecked blinds, and I left my bedsprings in the trash.  Yes I threw my old bed out, but I had quite a bit of help cleaning and there were several points of contention:

  • I did not receive pro-rated rent from my last month of tenancy.
  • The landlord claimed there were nine wrecked blinds.  There were only eight windows.
  • Without documentation, I was told I had to pay $400 in cleaning costs and $175 to haul my “unauthorized garbage” to the dump.

Because I got the shaft so bad, I decided to go to small claims court.  It took me hours to get witness statements, file the paperwork, learn the laws, consult a lawyer and get my documentation in order.  I didn’t want to do it, but I knew it was the right thing to do.  My landlord rents to young professionals.  I can’t speak for his motivation, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t put up a fight and just pay through the nose.

He tangled with the wrong girl.

So my mother (who helped me move) and I went to court and faced my landlord and his handyman.  It wasn’t unlike Judge Judy; I had pictures and a few receipts, as well as copies of all my correspondence.  The judge got both of our sides of the story.  He agreed with me my landlord charged too much for the labor without receipts.  He also agreed there were eight blinds in the apartment, and not “about nine” as my landlord claimed, and that I was due pro-rated rent.  He also mentioned I was the only one who submitted photos as part of my evidence.  He did side with my landlord that I should have had my bed hauled away and that the apartment wasn’t 100% clean, but the judge admonished my landlord for not having receipts, photos, or a legally written lease agreement.

The judge gave me $200 of the $650 I was seeking and I was perfectly happy with that.  I wasn’t expecting the full amount and $200 was certainly worth my time and effort.  Most importantly, it showed my landlord that people CAN and DO fight back.  My landlord claimed—and I don’t believe it for a second—that this was his first time in small claims court after 25 years in the business.  Yes, I was out a lot of time and effort including the day off work I had to take but I know in my heart of hearts it was the right thing to do.  It is about justice and principle, not about the money.

So, long story short, I can consider that chapter of my life officially over.  In the meantime, I am saving up money to buy a house!

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