MR. GIVENS: Apartment manager
MS. LONG: Landlady
Mr. and MRS. TOMAS: tenants (plaintiffs)
JUDGE: Mr. Givens, you’ve given me a copy of the accounting letter, which specifies three claims against the Tomases. First, there’s no dispute about the fact that they paid the $700 security deposit. You say you spent $500 to clean the apartment. You want half of the $1,800 you paid to replace all the carpeting in the apartment, and you’re claiming $300 for one week’s rent, is that right? Okay, I’ll address each one of these issues separately. I’d like to start with the first one. Do you have a receipt for the $500 for the cleaning company?
MR. GIVENS: Right here, from Jiffy Cleaners.
JUDGE: And do you have photographs of the apartment before you sent in the cleaning service?
MR. GIVENS: Yes, I do.
JUDGE: Give all those to the bailiff, please. And I’ll mark this receipt as Exhibit 3, and I’ll mark the photographs Exhibits 4 and 5. These appear to be photographs of stains on a carpet. Do you have none indicating that the apartment itself was left dirty?
MR. GIVENS: I assume some cleaning was needed. It usually is and I always call on Jiffy to come in between tenants.
JUDGE: Mr. and Mrs. Tomas, when you moved out, how did you leave the apartment?
MRS. TOMAS: How did we leave?
JUDGE: I’m sorry, I mean was it clean?
MRS. TOMAS: Oh sure. I used a machine. My husband rented it specially. You push it. I’m sorry, my English isn’t perfect.
JUDGE: Well, I understand you just fine. And you should know if there’s something you need to tell me and you can’t think of the word in English, your husband could translate for you …. whatever help you need. Is that all right with you if he helps with the translating? [to Mr.
Givens and Ms. Long]
JUDGE: All right, and you should know, Mr. Tomas, that if you have any problem understanding my questions, ask me to slow down or say it a different way because it’s important you understand me as well, ok?
MRS. TOMAS: Thank you.
JUDGE: All right now, you cleaned the apartment before you left?
MRS. TOMAS: Yes, but not the stains.
JUDGE: These stains in this photograph?
MRS. TOMAS: On the living room carpet, yes.
JUDGE: Was only the living room carpet stained?
MRS. TOMAS: Oh yes, the rest of the apartment was very clean.
JUDGE: Is that right, Mr. Givens?
MR. GIVENS: Yes, but Jiffy spent a lot of time trying to get those stains out and they also had to clean the oven.
MRS. TOMAS: But the racks weren’t like new. Everything was too old. The oven burned the food.
JUDGE: Was the oven broken?
MRS. TOMAS: Well, yes, it was broken.
JUDGE: Could you use it at all.
MRS. TOMAS: Well yes, but you see it got too hot.
JUDGE: Did you report that to Ms. Long?
MRS. TOMAS: Well, sure, but she said, “Forget it.” She couldn’t afford to buy me a new oven.
MS. LONG: I never said that!
JUDGE: Ms. Long, when Mrs. Tomas reported the problem, what did you tell her?
MS. LONG: Well, I really don’t remember. Well, I do know that the oven didn’t work properly because there was so much food baked on it.
JUDGE: Do either of you have anything more to say about the $500 cleaning bill? All right, then let’s go on to the next item. This receipt for $1,800 is the cost of replacing all of the carpeting in the apartment. Was it left in such bad condition?
MR. GIVENS: In the living room, yes.
JUDGE: Well, we already established that.
MR. GIVENS: They had a dog in there, your honor.
MR. TOMAS: Well, you knew we had a dog.
MRS. TOMAS: But you liked our dog.
JUDGE: As I explained, you may not interrupt someone else’s testimony. I guarantee that I’ll listen to each of you. Do you think the stains on the living room carpet were caused by the dog?
MR. GIVENS: Yes, that was obvious.
JUDGE: Mr. and Mrs. Tomas, do you agree?
MRS. TOMAS: Yes.
JUDGE: All right. Mr. Givens, why was it necessary to recarpet the entire apartment?
MR. GIVENS: Perspective tenants are particular about such things like that.
JUDGE: Well, was it possible to replace just the carpet in the living room?
MR. GIVENS: No, it was not possible. All the carpeting is ten years old and is faded to a certain color which I can’t replace. To carpet one room would create a carpet potpourri, which is not possible in view of the upscale tenants the apartment building is now receiving.
JUDGE: Except in the living room, how many more years of usefulness would you say that carpeting had?
MR. GIVENS: Well, that depends.
JUDGE: Does five years sound about right?
MR. GIVENS: I suppose, but…
JUDGE: Well, was it possible to patch the stains, for example, using carpet pieces from a closet?
MR. GIVENS: No, it was stained in several places as the photos show that I gave you.
JUDGE: Mr. and Mrs. Tomas, would you like to comment on this issue?
MR. TOMAS: Yes, I would, your honor. Ok, I can see how we might be responsible for the stains on the rug, but how about this? [submits paper to Bailiff]
JUDGE: What is this Mr. Tomas?
MR. TOMAS: I wrote a list of some of the work I did around the building. I know I saved Ms. Long a lot money, a lot more than the cost of the rug. Not everything is here. But what I can remember. And I didn’t charge her anything for it either.
JUDGE: All right, I have a list entitled "Handiwork Done for Ms. Long". I’m going to mark this Exhibit 6. Mr. Tomas, it was very kind of you to do this work. I hear you telling me that you feel that because of all the work you’ve done to help Ms. Long that the value of the work ought to offset any damage that she feels you’ve done to her property, but that’s not the case. The law is very precise about what a landlord is entitled to deduct from a security deposit other than ordinary wear and tear and the law simply won’t give you credit for work if you do it voluntarily. Is there anything else either side wants to say about this issue?