Condo tenants feel shortchanged on deposit

| 18/07/2017

We left the island two weeks ago and left our condo clean and paid all utility bills beforehand. Our landlord was to put our $2,000 deposit in our account after we left. It turned out that he only put $500 in our account. When we emailed him he said it was for deductions. Do we have anywhere to go to try and get the rest of our money back?

Auntie’s answer: From the outset, I feel compelled to say that I am not optimistic about your chances of getting any more money out of your ex-landlord, if for no other reason than you are not in Cayman to fight this battle.

Having said that, I nonetheless sought advice from Tony Catalanotto of Rainbow Realty, who has years of experience in the rental market here. The first point he made was that much would depend on what your tenancy agreement stipulates. “Typically a security deposit/damage bond is returned subject to any deductions for damages, state of the returned property, fulfilment of lease obligations, etc, with reasonable wear and tear excepted,” he explained.

Mr Catalanotto described what he called a “fairly standard clause” that appears in most of these agreements, which sets out the amount of the bond and how it will be refunded once the lease is up, with the balance after deductions usually returned within 15 days.

This clause also states that the refund is subject to various stipulations, among which are:

  • The full term of the rental agreement has been completed
  • Formal written notice of 60 days prior to the expiration of the term of this lease has been received
  • No damage or deterioration to the premises, buildings, or grounds is evident
  • The entire dwelling, appliances, closets and cupboards are clean. All debris and rubbish has been removed from the property and the carpets and floors are left clean and odorless
  • This security deposit shall not be applied to the last month’s rent
  • All unpaid charges have been paid including delinquent rents and utility charges
  • All keys have been returned.

While you specify that you left the condo clean and paid all the utility bills — and I will assume for the purposes of this discussion that you satisfied all the other stipulations in your agreement — Mr Catalanotto advised (which I realise is too late for you if this wasn’t done) that to avoid any possible conflicts, “both the tenant and landlord meet on the tenant’s last day of occupancy to do a check-out/walk-through of the unit. This way, either party can address areas of concern and agree to any possible deductions.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean the tenant and landlord will agree on the condition of the unit. In that case, Mr Catalanotto noted, unless there are any pre- and post-pictures or lists of deficiencies, it will be difficult to resolve.

But even without photos, he said, “For starters, the tenant should request a list of deductions and try to mitigate from there.”

As for seeking redress, the outlook is not good. “Unfortunately there is no department by which to file any sort of claim or simply cry ‘foul’ and I suspect that their landlord may know this,” he said.

If, however, your agreement contains a clause similar to what appears above, your only recourse is to file a small claim in Summary Court, though I fear that is not really feasible since you do not live in Cayman.

There is one other possibility he suggested: “If they went through an agent, they should go back to them and ask for help.”

I very much hope this last option is available and a Cayman-based agent is able to work out a reasonable settlement between you and the landlord.


Category: Ask Auntie, Real Estate Questions

Comments (11)

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  1. Be Honest says:

    No mention here by the tenant of what they possibly could have done wrong to trigger such a deduction. One typical scam that is run by tenants and costs landlords thousand and thousands of dollars regards subletting or renting out a room of the apartment for the tenants profit. Typically most lease agreements worldwide forbid such practice but that does not stop tenants from voiding the lease in this regard. Once the lease is voided the result is automatic forfeiture of the deposit in which case the tenant should be grateful they were not fined, their work permit cancelled and they had to leave the island early.

    • Vanessa says:

      ‘The entire dwelling, appliances, closets and cupboards are clean. All debris and rubbish has been removed from the property and the carpets and floors are left clean and odorless’

      I understand that this clause in the lease was not fulfilled

      ‘When we emailed him he said it was for deductions’

      Interestingly the tenant has not sent any communication to the Landlord since the due deposit was returned. The above statement appears to be untrue.

  2. I know of at least 6 cases in the past five years in the Seven Mile Beach area, where Caymanian landlords have refused to pay back full deposits to expats who were leaving or left the island. These landlords should be named and shamed.

    The Caymanian rip off should be stopped. Have my doubts the GOC will do anything.

    • Anonymous says:

      BEWARE CROOKED LANDLORD!! 7 MILE BEACH CONDO!! Moved out of condo on 7 mile beach 2 weeks ago. Landlord refuses to return my deposit claiming damage. She did this after we toured the place together. It was clean and there was no damage. We paid all Bill’s. We were excellent tenants that paid all Bill’s early was never late. She looks for reasons to keep deposit and blames everything on tenants so she can charge and keep deposit. Do not do any business with this woman..

  3. Anonymous says:

    Just walk away from the $1.5k and continue with life. Calculate the per-day figure over your time spent in Kman..just write that down $1500 divided by ‘x’ days in Kman equals per-day admin fee spent on your stay here. Its nothing…hasta la vista.

    • Vanessa says:

      I agree, they could also calculate how much rent they saved when the villainous landlord reduced the rent for them to help with their mortgage increase

  4. Anonymous says:

    There is a Residential Tenancies Law, 2009 which was passed and calls for the creation of a Tenancy Commissioner to resolve disputes but it was never brought in to force.
    Why would local landlords want a law like this in place when they can do whatever they want right now? The law would have given an easy, non-court related, avenue of dispute resolution which would probably have been free of charge. It makes sense so will likely never happen…most renters are expats.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Bad publicity is your best bet and will also let future tenants know to be on the look-out.

  6. matt fry says:

    Name and shame them, post on cns post on themarlroad and put adverts on ecay trade.

    it might not do anything but stop them re-renting

  7. AlanP says:

    I had to take landlords to small claims court, not once but 3 times (once in the Cayman islands). I got my deposits back all 3 times. But it is a difficult path. I guarantee a judge would side with a Caymanian landlord, unless you have a Caymanian attorney.
    In the absence of a modern day tenant-landlord law, landlords do as they pleased, especially knowing you are leaving the island.