Three months ago I moved out of an apartment. I went through the process of cleaning the apartment and making sure everything was in its right place. Yesterday, I received a collection letter stating that I owe the apartment complex for damages. How could that be? What steps do I take?
Through almost 14 years of hosting a radio show, I can’t tell you how many times I have received that email. You pay your rent on time. You make sure that everything is put back like it was before you moved in. Then you get the collection letter.
As in any business, there are people who are excellent at their jobs in the apartment management business and in that case everything works out perfectly. There are also people who are just not very good at their job. Thus mistakes could be made and your apartment was mixed up with the individual who did not leave their apartment in perfect condition. Then there are the unethical businesses that wrongly accuse in order to profit.
Unless you plan on spending a great deal of money filing a lawsuit, the listener above does not have really any recourse and here is why.
- The evidence is gone – That apartment has been leased out and there is nothing to prove that you did or not fulfill your obligation
- It is your word against their word – That is a no win situation.
- A Debt Collector is involved – The debt collector doesn’t care whether or not you owe the money. Their job is to collect.
So what is the answer? Simply put, get closure and agreement that you fulfilled your obligation before turning in the keys. Draw up a letter that states the unit has been inspected and that the leasing company releases you of any liability and that you have fulfilled your duties per the contract. I would even have someone there to witness it.
I would even take a step further and document the condition of the apartment through photos and video.
Extreme? Maybe so – however, you don’t want to find yourself in the listener’s situation as described above. Besides the fact that a debt in collection lowers credit scores, a debt that is ignored or is not paid could end up in a court of law. There are many cases where consumers were taken to court and had a judgment awarded against them for debts that they didn’t owe.
With any consumer contract, getting agreement on closure is always the best strategy.
Bob Brooks hosts the Prudent Money Radio Show heard weekdays Monday through Friday on 91.3, 97.5, and 99.9 in the Dallas Fort Worth Area. You can reach Bob at firstname.lastname@example.org