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Student charged thousands in apartment rental fees

Kenny Singh, junior nursing major, was charged thousands of dollars in fees upon moving out of his apartment. Photo credit: Lauren Anderson


Transitioning away from home or out of the dorms and into a house or apartment can bring an undoubted sense of freedom. Unfortunately, it can also lead to unexpected obstacles and frustrations. Kenny Singh dealt with the frustration of apartment living firsthand when he was charged more than $2,000 in fees after moving out of Chico College Apartments on Nord Avenue.

Singh now has plans to pursue legal action against the apartment complex, he said.

Upon moving into the new place, Singh noticed the apartment was in poor condition and had a strange odor. Soon after, a neighbor informed him that a transient man had broken into the apartment and lived there last semester, he said.

“It smelled horrible,” Singh said. “I didn’t know where it was coming from.”

At the end of the semester when his lease was up, Singh cleaned the place for two days. About two weeks after vacating the property, he received a letter explaining he owed $2,300 for cleaning fees.

“I was shocked because I was thinking I was going to get something positive back in the letter,” he said. “I know how the apartment looked, and the deposit should have been more than enough for everything.”

Enclosed in the letter, Singh received a receipt from a third-party independent contractor who took care of the cleaning in his apartment. When he tried contacting the contractor, he was referred back to his landlord, who failed to respond more than once to the multiple messages and letters with questions concerning the condition and cleanliness of the apartment, he said.

The landlord’s response indicated Singh was obligated to pay the money because he signed a contract.

“I feel like the property manager is taking advantage of me,” Singh said.

To avoid a similar situation to what Singh experienced, he recommends some tips for college students for a stress-free renting experience:

Don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Singh and his roommate were eager to move in because their landlord offered them half off of their rent.

However, it’s not ridiculous to ask for a small portion off the rent, especially if the price isn’t right, he said.

Do research beforehand.

“First look up the place, comments and how the reviews are,” Singh said.

He researched his apartment complex after already moving in and found disturbing and angry comments from previous residents who experienced similar situations. Listening to those may have saved him the hassle, he said.

Take pictures of everything.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and in Singh’s case, perhaps a picture could have been worth $2,000.

“Take photos when you enter the house and when you leave, even if you think it’s in perfect condition,” he said.

Photos can provide proof of damage that may have been there before moving in. The photo evidence can help innocent tenants from being charged.

Schedule a pre-move out inspection.

This may draw the tenant’s attention to anything that needs to be fixed or taken care of before the move out and could save money, he said.

Under California law, landlords have 21 calendar days to send the tenants either a full refund of the security deposit, or present a statement listing the charges. These amounts must include any reason for the deductions.

The law also states that a landlord can only use a tenant’s security deposit for the following:

  • Unpaid rent
  • Cleaning to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in
  • Repairing damage that’s more than general wear and tear
  • Replacing or restoring furniture or other personal property items

The California Department of Consumer Affairs urges tenants to contact the landlord immediately for a refund in the amount the tenant believes they are entitled to. It’s important to include the reasons why the deductions were improper. If the landlord or agent is still reluctant, the department recommends trying to work out a reasonable compromise as the next best option.

As a last resort, Singh is going to small claims court, where he will argue why he deserves the deposit.

“Charging college students who barely make enough money is messed up,” Singh said. “I don’t understand how my judgement could be that far off.”

Lauren Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or @laurentaylora on Twitter.

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