My First Court Case … and a Small Victory

1 Apr

Yesterday, I settled my first court case.  I’d filed a case last month, which was an open and shut case, so the defendant decided to settle it out of court.

I used to live in Sycamore Creek Apartments in Cincinnati and moved out in October 2008. Per the rules, I should have received my rent deposit, an amount of $468 after some deductions, after two weeks. However, I received a letter detailing the deductions and the final amount but not the check. After waiting for a few days, I called up Sycamore Creek and was told that the check had returned because of incorrect address. My address starts with 727 and they had written 272 on the envelope. I gave them the address again and checked the letter I had received. The address indeed started with 272, and the letter reached me, but not the check.

I waited for a month and then called them again. This time I was told that the owner of Sycamore Creek – AIMCO – had sold the property to another business, and AIMCO would send me the check. I again waited for the check and contaced AIMCO. This time, I was told that the funds had been transferred to the new owner, so they should send me the deposit check. The lady at Sycamore Creek was dead sure that AIMCO would send me the money because when I vacated the apartment, the property was still owned by AIMCO. The property manager once told me that I would receive my check within a month, only to be told a month later that the manager had quit her job. And I was back to square one.

I shuttled between Sycamore Creek and AIMCO for a few months more. Then I read a blog post about a small business owner who had sued Google and won. This gave me an idea. I did some research on the Internet and learned about the municipal court in Cincinnati and it’s small claims division. The best part was that I could claim double the amount if the landlord didn’t refund my deposit within 30 days. One morning, I went to the court and submitted a short form along with a payment of $53. The clerk at the counter asked me for a convenient hearing date and put the date after 30 days on the form.

I knew that I would get a call from Sycamore Creek soon. And I did get a call. The new property manager told me that my check for $936 was ready and I can pick up the check any time and sign a releaase form. If I had decided to take them to court, they would have had to pay an additional $53 in court charges. I decided not to take this route. I was getting double the deposit amount anyway, so I took the check and signed the release form.

I enquired about how I could drop the case and was told that I can submit a form or I can just not appear in court in which case the case will be dismissed anyway. I have decided to submit a form. This was all pretty easy and convenient. I don’t know if everyone is aware of this facility that our tax dollars are paying for. I’m glad I’m paying my taxes and the money is being put to good use.

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