Returning Soldier Says Landlord is Unfairly Keeping Deposit
Friday, April 23, 2010
Ed Doney, KFOR News
NORMAN, OK -- An Oklahoma soldier who recently returned from an overseas deployment is now in a battle against his landlord. The landlord, who is retired military, would only talk to us over the phone. He claims the tenant paid whatever he wanted on rent each month and now owes him money. The tenant says the landlord is unfairly keeping his deposit because he wouldn't pay the mortgage.
After serving in the Army National Guard in Iraq, David Corbett and his new wife moved into a rental home in Moore last year.
"The house was filthy when we moved in," Corbett says, "but we cleaned it ourselves."
Corbett says last summer he found a Notice Of Sheriff's Sale on his door which said the property would soon be sold because the landlord, Claude E. Miller, wasn't paying the mortgage.
"I was angry," Corbett says. "I said, well I want to know immediately what's going on."
Miller told Corbett and NewsChannel 4 that he was working on a new loan with GMAC.
But earlier this year, Corbett found a second Sheriff's Sale Notice on his door.
"The second one," Corbett says, "...it's time to get out. He assured me I'd get my deposit."
However, Wednesday morning Corbett found a letter from Miller saying he was keeping the $500 deposit to pay for charges like "damage done in bedroom by pet."
Corbett says he never owned a pet but Miller claims he saw a pet in a window.
Corbett is also being charged for "rents not paid," but he says those were rental discounts he received for doing home repairs.
Court records show several foreclosure lawsuits Miller has faced in recent years from different banks.
Gary Briggs, an attorney at Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, says Corbett's only remedy is to take Miller to small claims court.
He says all rental agreements, such as repair projects, need to be documented by the tenant outside the lease.
"That is the best way to win," Briggs says, "is to have your paper trail properly prepared."
"I told him (Miller) it's a deposit, not a donation," Corbett says, "and he took it as a donation."
Briggs says written agreements and witness testimony will also help a tenant's case.
Miller told NewsChannel 4 alimony payments have made it hard to pay the mortgage on all of his properties.
However, he says he'd be happy to meet Corbett in small claims court.