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Dale Dixon: Landlord-tenant disputes among top gripes to BBB

Disputes between tenants and landlords are consistently one of the top complaints we process at Better Business Bureau. They are usually among the top three, just behind complaints about car buying. In popular moving months, they have taken the No. 1 spot.

When tenants turn to the BBB, it is most often because of a dispute over the return of their security deposits. Renters either don’t know why they were charged, don’t agree with the charge, or disagree over who was to pay for professional cleaning. One complaint regarding a Treasure Valley-based rental company said the landlord would not do a walk-through inspection. The tenant says he was then told not only would his full deposit be retained, but also he owed more money beyond the deposit.

“It has been 33 days since I moved out, and (the landlord) has not provided me with an itemized deduction. Just a letter saying I owe.”

Sure, there are laws involved in returning security deposits, but what about the ethics?

How many headaches could be avoided by being transparent up front? Leases go on for pages and pages. One contract I have seen in recent months extends beyond 20 pages. It is detailed, but is that much legal jargon and potentially hidden wording truly being transparent?

An honest walk-through before move-out could clear up any disputes over potential charges. A young couple told me about their last move-out, when the landlord did just that. The landlord gave them the opportunity to re-do cleaning that fell below her level of satisfaction, and then followed up to keep her end of the deal: They received their full, refundable deposit.

Creating good relationships with tenants is in your best interest. I asked a renter about her current experience. She said that when she decided to move in, the management company provided her a copy of the lease with time to review it. The lease was a bullet-pointed, clear, 3-page agreement. Then when she went to sign it, the manager went through each point to make sure both parties understood what was expected.

That kind of attention took time for the landlord. But transparency, clear expectations and a high level of care breeds long-term, satisfied tenants who just may take care of your property as if it were their own.

Dale Dixon is president and CEO of Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River Region. 342-4649, This column appears in the Jan. 20-Feb. 16, 2016, edition of the Idaho Statesman’s Business Insider magazine.