(WSVN) - When you move out of a rental, you ordinarily don’t have to repaint the place. But one landlord did paint and kept a portion of one man’s security deposit as a result. Is that legal? It’s why this renter called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

There are good renters, there are bad renters. Jaime is a good one.

Jaime Baca: “I never was late with the payment, always on time, always on time.”

After six years. he needed a bigger place and decided to move. Doesn’t take much to describe that chore.

Jaime Baca: “It’s no fun.”

Jaime had paid a $2,800 deposit at his old place and wanted to get as much of that back as possible. So he went to work.

Jamie Baca: “I left the apartment all clean. I record the apartment. I don’t know why I thought about that, but I did it”

Jaime smartly recorded a complete walk-through of every room in the two-bedroom unit, wanting to prove it was as nice as the day he moved in six years ago.

The property manager then came over.

Jaime Baca: “The guy that was in charge, I check everything out, and they say, ‘Well, you’re going to get your check after a few days.'”

And Jaime did get a check. He opened the envelope. Not $2,800, $275.

Jaime Baca: “I don’t think that’s fair.”

The landlord charged Jaime $325 to clean the apartment again and $2,200 to paint the two-bedroom unit.

Jaime Baca: “I offered to them to paint it professionally.”

Jaime wrote a letter asking to let him hire a painter for a lot less than $2,200. No one responded.

He called the property manager; they didn’t answer. He drove to the address they listed.

Jaime Baca: “Surprise. It was a UPS Store, where they have a box, a mailbox over there.”

When the pandemic hit, Jaime could have done like many renters and quit paying his landlord because you couldn’t be evicted. But he did the right thing and kept paying. This is his reward.

Jaime Baca: “I rented many of the times during I was living here, and I never had this problem.”

Well, here is Jaime’s 15-page lease, Howard. Is there a clause in here that allows the landlord to charge him for painting and normal wear and tear?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “For normal wear and tear and painting, a landlord cannot charge you. But this 15-page contract has a sentence that’s easy to miss that says, ‘The tenant has to return the property with professionally, freshly painted walls, or the landlord will deduct the cost from the deposit.’ Whether you live there one year or six years. I have not seen this before, and it allows the landlord to keep almost every security deposit, even if they don’t paint the apartment.”

I contacted the property manager. He said the owner’s rep decided to charge for the painting.

I spoke to the rep for the owner. She said many tenants have destroyed their units, and they decided to start charging this painting fee to help restore them. She did say Jaime was an “excellent tenant.”

I said, “He also paid during COVID when many tenants didn’t, so at least give him $1,000.” They did what they didn’t have to do and gave Jamie another $700, bringing him nearly to $1,000.

Jaime Baca: “I didn’t read the whole contract. Now I learned the bad way.”

Everything the landlord did was legal, and not every landlord will return money like Jaime’s did, so be careful.

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “If this is a trend, the Legislature needs to protect tenants by requiring leases to conspicuously disclose they have to pay for painting, regardless of wear and tear. That way, the tenant knows they aren’t going to get their security back, and if they want, they can walk away.”

Jaime got more of his money back, after his call to Help Me Howard.

Jaime Baca: “I am very glad. I really appreciate your help. Without you, I couldn’t do nothing.”

Nice, and the owner’s rep was very helpful as well. Now, as Jaime said, read that whole lease carefully, even if it’s 15 pages, so you know what to expect.

A problem deposited in your life affecting your security? Let us clean things up and paint a better picture for you.

With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
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