The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed judgment in favor of a tenant in a security deposit dispute, ruling that the landlord did deliver an itemized damages letter within statutory deadlines.
Christine DiGiacomo had a one-year written lease agreement with Robert Eppl for a one-bedroom apartment. She asked to stay on a couple of months extra after the lease ended because her new home wasn’t ready for her to move in. She paid rent for February 2009, but arranged to drop off her keys to the apartment in the middle of February because she was ready to move. On April 10, she received an itemized list of damages from Eppl, keeping her $550 security deposit and seeking $87.50 in additional damages for nail holes in the wall, a broken light fixture, and repainting of the apartment.
DiGiacomo sued for the refund of her security deposit and attorney fees, arguing that the letter came after the 45 days required under statute; Eppl countersued for the additional $87.50. The small claims court ruled in favor of DiGiacomo.
At issue in Robert Eppl v. Christine DiGiacomo, No. 45A03-1007-SC-402, is whether the month-to-month lease terminated in the middle of February when DiGiacomo turned in her keys, which would make the itemized damages letter late under statute; or whether the lease terminated at the end of February, in which the letter would be on time.
The judges found that DiGiacomo’s conduct didn’t indicate that she intended the rental agreement to end until the end of February as she paid rent through the end of the month and never requested a pro rata refund of rent paid for the month. She and Eppl also had an oral agreement that she would stay for a couple more months. Also, she can’t show that Eppl took any decisive action on February 13 when she turned in the key that manifested his acceptance of her surrender of the apartment, wrote Judge Carr Darden.
“Without more, DiGiacomo’s mere delivery of the keys is not sufficient to demonstrate that Eppl actually accepted the surrender of the premises, and thereby, released DiGiacomo from liability as of that date,” he wrote.
The appellate court reversed judgment in favor of DiGiacomo and remanded for the court to calculate the undisputed nail hole damages and expenses for repair of the broken light fixture to be deducted from the security deposit. DiGiacomo admitted to breaking the light fixture and making eight to 10 nail holes in the apartment, but said she did not make the 53 holes that Eppl said he counted in the apartment after she left.