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renting case in MA, US

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  • renting case in MA, US

    I am an international student and right now I meet some unhappy things with my old landlord.
    I moved out at Dec 31th, 2009. This apartment does not include utilities and the way of heating is using oil. So I need order oil by myself.
    When I moved in this apartment, the landlord told me he will give me cash for the remaining oil which is still in the tank when I move out. He told me that is the rule, so I gave him $50 for the remaining oil (gauge showed 25 gallons and $2 per gallon). But I just moved 3 days, the oil burner stopped working. The landlord told me that because there is no oil in the tank and let me order oil. I asked him why there is no oil in the tank i just pay him $50 for the remaining oil, he told me if oil below 25 gallons the oil burner will stop working. Then I ordered 100 gallons oil and pay extra $30 for restarting the oil burner. I found the gauge of the oil tank has some problem and I could not read the remaining oil correctly when I lived in a few weeks. I asked landlord to fix it. He promised it but did not do it.
    At Dec 31th I moved out I asked landlord to give the money for remaining oil, he told me the gauge is not correct and he cannot give the money for the number showed from gauge. I asked him to fix it and then give me the money from the working gauge. He promised, but a week later (Jan 7th) I called him he still do not fix it and he told me he will not fix the gauge until he found next Tenant and next tenant order the oil. Now it has been more than one month. I tried to call him 3 times in past one month, but he always told me there was no next tenant and let me wait.
    What I can do to get my money back? I think this is unreasonable I have to wait he found next tenant then I get my money back. And to be honest I cannot feel he is willing to give me money back.

  • #2
    Re: renting case in MA, US

    I just received my oil bill today myself. I used just over 5 gallons of oil a day here at a cost of $2.56 per gallon. (154 gallons for the month) I don't know how large of a unit you were renting, so I can't say that 25 gallons would last more than 3 days. In my house it would be close. If it is very low, the burner will not work (true). But $2 a gallon is a bargain here.

    Why can't you go back to that unit and measure the depth of the oil inside the tank with a rod? Take the external measurements of the tank and go by the math department of your college. Surely someone there can show you the computations to calculate the amount of oil in an oval tank that is x inches deep by xx inches long by xx inches wide. Simple math. Then take the calculations, put them in writing, send them to the LL with a demand letter to be repaid for the oil left in the tank. You should also have received your deposit money back. Sed the demand letter by certified mail, return receipt requested, and keep a copy of the letter and the postcard that comes back. If he doesn't respond or refund the money, re-post and we will tell you how to sue him.


    • #3
      Re: renting case in MA, US

      thanks for your suggestion.
      this tank is sealing, i am afraid the LL will not allow me to open the tank then the only way to measure the remaing oil is from gauge.
      what i can do, could I just send the LL a letter to ask him give me a deadline of fixing the gauge and give my deposit back?
      and could i send a letter to local house authority to ask them help me ?



      • #4
        Re: renting case in MA, US

        The tank can't be sealed. On most tanks there is a pipe with a flip top lid or a cap that unscrews (about 3" in diameter). The oil delivery person lifts that and inserts the nozzle for the fuel. If it were sealed or locked, the oil delivery person could not put fuel in the tank. Can't you just lift or unscrew that and measure the oil? A simple plastic or wooden rod, or even a stiff tape measure, would work to measure it.

        If the gauge is inaccurate, looking at that will do you little good. But if that is your only source of measurement, by all means, go read the gauge. After all, he charged you by this same gauge for the oil when you moved in. I don't see why you couldn't be paid for the oil remaining on the same gauge. BTW- it is standard practice here to receive the tank either full or empty and leave it the same way, not to pay for remaining oil. That is standard here, I can't say for your area.

        Send him a demand letter based on the gauge's reading. Send it certified RRR, and keep a copy of it and the postcard that comes back. Don't ask him when he will fix it, he has had more than enough time to do that. Just demand your money. You need to stop being so nice and tell him you want your money.

        You could try to get HA to send a letter or contact legal aide to see if they would help you.


        • #5
          Re: renting case in MA, US

          thanks for your help!
          I am in MA, my last-last LL when I moved in she told me no matter the tank is empty or full she will not give me money and she did not charge me any money abouth oil. I do not know that is the rule or not. but this LL charge me money when I moved in for remaining oil.
          since I have already moved out, could the LL refuse me to measure the tank or go to his basement to read the gauge? If he refuse me to measure it or read the gauge. what I can do?
          and I read the definition of demand letter, "The letter should be written in a very clear but non-abusive tone. It should start with the facts of the case and why you feel payment is justified. The letter should also outline exactly what you are seeking and a deadline for payment."
          If the LL refuse to let me measure the tank and the gauge can not read the oil exactly, how can I state the money exactly( I mean by number) . And except for state the fact of the case and the deadline for payment, is there any other point I should be careful?
          does a demand letter must be writen by a lawyer? or I can write it by myself and keep a copy of what I write and go to post-office to mail the letter by certified mail, return receipt requested?



          • #6
            Re: renting case in MA, US

            If you cannot access the tank to measure it, then estimate it. Take the last 2 months of oil bills.
            1)Take the number of gallons used divided by the number of days the bill covered. That gives you the average daily usage of oil.
            2)Take the amount used daily multiplied by how many days you were there after the tank was filled. That will show how much you should have used.
            3)Subtract the amount you should have used from the amount delivered or the amount the tank holds (most are 275 or 300 gallon tanks). That should be what was left in the tank when you moved out.
            4)Use that figure x the same $2 a gallon he charged you to figure out how much he owes you.

            That should give you an estimate of how much he owes you. I must ask, did you get anything in writing about the oil? Did you get a receipt for the oil you paid him for? Was there anything in your rental agreement about the oil?


            • #7
              Re: renting case in MA, US


              That is the bad point. I just have the normal agreement which there is no statement about remaining oil. that is just oral agreement. When he asked me to give him $50 for remaining oil, he is so kind and told me that was the rule and it was no necessary to write it.
              what I have about oil is just receipt from oil delivery campany. it is a bad case? right? : (
              the people who know this oral deal include my girlfriend, she was there when I paid LL the remaining oil. And the wife and son of LL aslo told me this was the rule.
              if i sue, in this solution, is that a bad case?

              thanks again!


              • #8
                Re: renting case in MA, US

                I can't say for sure that a judge would not rule for you. There is no predicting how a judge would rule.

                In your favor, you do have a witness to say he told you about this rule. Do you have a receipt from him that shows you paid him for the remaining oil (as proof of the supposed rule)? That would be proof that he was enforcing the rule and may sway the judge to your side.

                In his favor, you did not get this rule in writing and have nothing that says he must pay you for it.

                Do you have an idea about how much oil was left? How long had it been between filling the tank and moving out? That would let you figure (roughly) the value of this oil and if it would be worth suing.


                • #9
                  Re: renting case in MA, US

                  I do not have a receipt from him that shows I paid him for the remaining oil.
                  When I move out, I check the gauge, it was 110gallons. If the LL did not do anything, it should be still 110gallons.
                  Is this case worthing suing? will I lose this case?



                  • #10
                    Re: renting case in MA, US

                    I can't say if you would win or lose. Only a judge can determine that. I can say that you would have a stronger case if you had proof of paying for the remaining oil, or a clause in your rental agreement that states you would be paid for what's left when you vacate. But you do have a witness that saw and heard him say that and saw you pay him for the oil when you moved in, right?

                    110 gallons of oil at the price I paid above would be about $280 worth. Find out how much it will cost to file a small claims court case. Then weigh that against your chance of winning that $280. Only you can determine if it would be worth filing. The case is not a definite win for you. It would depend on who the judge believed - you or the LL (who undoubtedly will say there was no such agreement).


                    • #11
                      Re: renting case in MA, US

                      I check the website
                      District Court - Small Claims Information

                      "What is the filing fee for a small claim?
                      The filing fee for small claims of $500 and under is $30.00. The filing fee for claims over $500.00 is $40.00."
                      What are "costs"?
                      If the plaintiff prevails, or if both sides settle the claim, the plaintiff may recover from the defendant as "costs" the court filing fee. By court order the plaintiff may sometimes recover certain other costs of bringing the claim. "

                      My claims is no more than $300. Is $30 all fee If I sue the LL? If I lose the case, is there any other fee I gonna pay to court or LL? (I do not understand "other costs of bringing the claim")



                      • #12
                        Re: renting case in MA, US

                        You need to call the clerk of court for small claims court, not district court, on Monday. Fees vary by state, and even per court. Ask how much it is to file a claim for under $300 and what other fees there are Sometimes there are fees other than the filing fee. In some courts there is also a fee to record the judgment after you win, and another fee to garnish wages from that LL so you can get your money. Keep in mind that obtaining a judgment for the money (that's what you get when you win the lawsuit) is easier than actually getting the money afterward. That judgment is only a piece of paper that says he owes you. Getting him to pay it is sometimes harder still.

                        When it says you may be able to recover the costs of the suit, that means the losing party may have to pay for all court costs (filing fees, attorney fees, or any other fees the court may have). It does say MAY, not will. You might get that money from the LL, or you might not.


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