Single-Family Rental Industry: Companies Keep Tenant Security Deposits, Pad Move-Out Statements, Turn Former Tenants’ Accounts Over to Debt Collectors

Industry Update

Leasing Lifestyle: Second Class Petty Officer Jonathan Stacy had always thought of himself as capable of handling whatever the U.S. Navy threw at him. Then he met his match: American Homes 4 Rent, the Agoura Hills, California-based real estate investment trust that leases single family homes it snapped up in the wake of the 2008 real estate crash.

First came the broken air conditioning in Stacy’s Jacksonville Florida home in the summer of 2014; he paid $300 to fix it when maintenance requests were ignored and mishandled. In October, it was the furnace, with the company again ignoring repair requests.

Before the year was up, Stacy received orders to deploy to the Middle East, which under federal law allowed him to break his lease. His efforts to get out of the home ended in full voicemail boxes and eventually a refusal to let him cancel the rental agreement.

When an American Homes 4 Rent employee in Las Vegas finally intervened weeks later with the Jacksonville office, Jacksonville told Stacy he had missed the 30-day window opened by the deployment order. Stacy rebutted that he’d been contacting the company for weeks. He hired a cleaning service, gave the landlord the receipts, paid through January and deployed. He figured he was done with American Homes 4 Rent. The company disagreed.

A few months later a bill arrived for $6,500 in move-out charges. It included the January rent he had paid, $800 for paint, and compensation for heavy pet damage for a pet he never had. The company said it was keeping his security deposit and that he owed thousands of dollars more.

“I was trying to deal with this in the Middle East in a combat zone,” said Stacy, who was 22 at the time. “I was on an app in a tent typing emails to anyone who might be able to help me. I had to work on this in the middle of the night because I was 13 hours ahead.”

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