June 12, 2011
Rent Burlington VT
Are you thinking of renting a house or an apartment in Burlington, VT? If so, you have to be very careful indeed. It's possible to get scammed and lose your security deposit.
My son was trying to lease an apartment for the 2011-2012 school year. He attends Champlain College in Burlington, VT.
He found a place in April of 2011 and the property manager squeezed him for a security deposit to HOLD the apartment so that it would not be leased to another person. The property manager said that if we didn't put down the deposit just to hold it while he sent us a copy of the lease, the apartment might be rented to someone else.
It was the typical scarcity high-pressure play. With apartments in short supply as it's spring when you sign up for the next year, we issued a check under good faith. We then tried to get a copy of the lease.
The property manager then turned around and leased it to another person who was willing to sign a three-year lease.
We asked for our money back, but had trouble getting it. There was always an excuse.
Fortunately I'm friends with a police officer with 20-plus years of experience in Waltham, MA. He was convinced there was fraud happening and told me to call the Burlington, VT police department.
I did and talked with Officer Kimberly Shelley. She was amazing. Within a period of three hours, she called the owner of the property and I'm sure had some words with her. The property owner's story didn't match that of the property manager.
Five days later we got our money back from the property owner.
But, that's not the important part of the story! Officer Shelley told me that in Vermont the law is such that the property manager and the owner didn't have to return the deposit because I had NO CONTRACT stating under which conditions it would be returned.
Remember, the property manager put the pressure on my son to hand over money just to hold the apartment.
If you find yourself in this position - being pressured by a property manager or an owner, STOP and write out a simple contract. Be sure it's dated and signed by both parties. Keep the original copy for yourself. Use your phone to take photos of the contract and the check you issue.
All it has to say is something like:
The parties agree that the deposit of $XXX.xx is just to hold the apartment located at ADDRESS OF APARTMENT until such time as YOUR NAME has had time to review the lease or rental agreement.
If YOUR NAME finds the terms of the lease to be unsuitable and the lease is not signed, the PROPERTY OWNER agrees to return the deposit within 3 days.
If the PROPERTY OWNER fails to return the deposit in full, YOUR NAME will contact the Burlington, VT police department so they can begin an immediate investigation to determine if the PROPERTY OWNER is guilty of criminal fraud.
Signatures of the parties and date signed and check number
The smart thing is to create this simple document ahead of time and have it with you as you look at apartments. Without a simple agreement stating that you will get your money back if you don't like or sign the lease, you just might not be a lucky as I was.
Thanks Officer Shelley!
Posted by Tim Carter at June 12, 2011 9:19 AM