How specific does the landlord have to be in the written list of deductions from my security deposit?
A. The notice that the landlord provides to you within the 30 day period after you move out must be sufficiently itemized so that you can get enough information out of it to call the landlord up and intelligently contest the damages. In the case of Nolan v. Sutton (1994), 97 Ohio App. 3d 616; 647 N.E.2d 218, the landlord sent the tenant out a notice of security deposit forfeiture which stated only “Cleaning, $40.00.” The First Appellate District Court in Hamilton County held that this was not sufficiently itemized as a matter of law when it stated as follows:
- We hold that the itemization in this case, “$40-cleaning,” is insufficient as a matter of law to meet the landlord’s burden under R.C. 5321.16(B) and (C), and that, thus, the trial court properly granted summary judgment to Nolan, the tenant.
Your landlord, when confronted with this argument will then produce a raft of evidence, either at trial or in response to a discovery motion that will itemize the “damages” for failure to clean in a lot more detail. But this will be of no avail to him, as the Court in Nolan went on to state that:
- We believe that under the statutory scheme established under the landlord/tenant law, the sufficiency of the itemization must be determined at the time it is sent to the tenant, not at the time it may later be clarified through discovery in a lawsuit.
The Court in Nolan provided insight into its reasoning for its holding in this matter:
- In the case at bar, there is simply no way to determine from the “Security Deposit Transmittal” form received by the tenant whether the $40 for cleaning was due to ordinary wear and tear or something above that. As stated by the supreme court in Smith v. Padgett (1987), 32 Ohio St.3d 344, 349, 513 N.E.2d 737, 742:
“A landlord should not be allowed to escape the intent underlying the R.C. 5321.16(C) penalties by making a list of deductions. A landlord will not be deterred from making unfounded deductions from a security deposit if the penalties provided by R.C. 5321.16(C) can be avoided by tendering a list of facially justifiable reasons for the deductions.”