BURLINGTON, Vt. – “Please don’t ‘shhh’ me,” Will Berke said to his landlord Mike Cassidy.
Cassidy was caught off guard, “Please don’t what?” he responded.
It was the first of several moments of bickering between the two in front of the Housing Board of Review in Burlington. The board met on Monday evening.
What’s at stake? For Berke and his roommate $1182 in security deposits they believe should be returned to them. Cassidy, however, says there was too much damage done to his property at 20 Intervale Avenue to warrant giving back all the money.
Before the dispute between Berke and Cassidy escalated any further the Vice Chair of the Housing Board of Review breaks it up.
“I would say more than half the landlord or the tenant are upset and sometime the emotion comes through in the meeting,” Vice-Chair Jason L’Ecuyer told us in an interview.
L’Ecuyer serves as much as peace keeper as a decision maker, but obviously takes the latter most seriously.
Tenants and landlords arm themselves with pictures, papers and letters acquired over the course of their contract together showing the disputed damage . The usual talking points are trash, carpets, walls and always dirt.
The board heard 61 cases last year, 51 of them were for security deposits. But the board doesn't keep stats on who's coming out on top more, landlords or tenants.
“It's not that easy,” L’Ecuyer said.
“A lot of times they get partial payment back or keep partial rent.”
But some on the board say landlords are at a disadvantage because of the city's ordinance.
In Burlington, landlords have to send notice of deposit withholdings by secure mail, or they automatically forfeit their claim. That’s in contradiction with state law and the property owner of 163 South Prospect Street felt the full frustration of that Monday night when he lost his case because of it.
“You got out of it so congratulations to you,” Bruce Baker told his tenant Patrick Crowley.
“But that place was destroyed; about $3,000 to put it together.”
L’Ecuyer says he’s working with the City Attorney’s Office to try and change the ordinance and a couple of city councilors have also raised up the issue.
Even so L'Ecuyer says it's a pretty even fight between landlords and tenants in a battle for money both believe is theirs.
Both tenants and landlords have resources available to help them win their case.