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.