The Envelope, please
When you throw away your envelope, you might be throwing away your case.
Time and again, we tell renters to keep the envelopes in which the landlord’s correspondence was sent. All too often we hear, “Oh, I threw it away. I didn’t know it was important.”
That could not be more wrong.
Remember, landlord-tenant relations are based in the legal arena. Notices are required. There are deadlines for responses.
So, when landlords evade or neglect their duties, it is important to catch them in the act. You need proof. Many times, landlords who miss deadlines try to hide that fact by back-dating the correspondence. But, a tenant can prove otherwise with evidence the document was actually mailed at a different time.
Bear in mind, there may not only be a postmark to observe. If the letter was sent by certified or registered mail, then you also can track the associated number at the post office website, which is www.usps.com.
For example, under A.R.S. § 33-1321(D), a landlord must refund the amount of security deposit due, less an itemized list of deductions, within fourteen business days from termination of tenancy, delivery of possession, and demand (typically, that is about twenty calendar days, depending on weekends and holidays - count to be sure). Oftentimes, landlords miss the deadline, but in order to cover their tracks they backdate the response document notwithstanding that it was mailed way too late.
The key arguments are waiver of claim, and statutory damages due. If the landlord failed to respond within the fourteen days, then it is too late to do so afterwards. At that point, the landlord will be liable for not only returning the amount wrongfully withheld, but also statutory damages of twice that amount. For some tenants, this could amount to thousands of dollars.
That envelope could be worth quite a pretty penny. Don’t let a landlord get away with scamming the courts and stealing from you.
- Ken Volk -