How Should a Landlord Prepare For Court?


A previous tenant is suing us in small claims court, saying we returned too little of his security deposit. But we gave him an itemized list of the much-needed repairs. The tenant is asking for payment of the security deposit, grief and time, and gas and miles. Can he get all of that? Also, what would you suggest we prepare for the judge? We already have pictures of the damage, receipts for some of the work, and estimates for materials costs.


What matters in small claims court is not so much what you say, but what you drag through the courtroom door with you. And you seem to have done a pretty good job of preparing already.

When you do land in court, you will need to convince the judge that the damage was not there when the irate tenant moved in, that you have spent reasonably for needed repairs, and that you followed your state's procedures for itemizing deductions and refunding the balance of the deposit. Bring your receipts, pictures, and any helpful witnesses. If the witnesses are not able to appear in person, a signed declaration will probably be sufficient.

You sound like a reasonable soul -- and you will want to impress the judge with this, too, right down to your sensible shoes. Be calm, factual, and as succinct as possible when making your presentation.

It is unlikely that a judge would award the tenant compensation for his transportation costs, even if he wins.

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