Off-campus realty company sued for failing to return accurate security deposits on time

The Lantern
Six former Ohio State students sue NorthSteppe Realty for not returning tenant security deposits on time and accurately Monday. Casey Cascaldo | Lantern File Photo

Lawyers representing six former Ohio State students filed a class action lawsuit Monday against NorthSteppe Realty Company for not returning tenant security deposits on time and accurately.

According to the complaint, NorthSteppe violated the Ohio Landlord-Tenant Act by incorrectly calculating the amount it owed its tenants at the end of their leases to make a profit on the deductions they take off the deposit, charging inflated amounts for cleaning and repairs compared to what it pays for those jobs.

The plaintiffs look to prevent the company from “continuing to prey on unsuspecting college students” and “ensure that a defendant who engages in widespread harm — but does so minimally against each individual plaintiff — may be responsible to compensate those individuals for their injuries,” the press release stated.

“This lawsuit demands that those countless students and others who rented from NorthSteppe over the last eight years and who had their Security Deposits wrongly debited be reimbursed in accordance with the double-damages provisions of the Ohio Landlord-Tenant Act,” the press release stated. “The suit also demands that NorthSteppe be held liable for attorney fees incurred in the prosecution of the Class Action on behalf of wronged tenants.”

According to the Ohio Landlord-Tenant Act , landlords are required to return the security deposit within 30 days after the rental agreement has been terminated. The landlord is entitled to deduct from the deposit, and deductions should be identified by the landlord in a written notice delivered to the tenant.

NorthSteppe Realty Company did not respond to request for comment by the time of publication.

According to the complaint, the plaintiffs learned NorthSteppe had deducted $345 from their deposit –– $300 to paint three walls  it claimed had been scuffed and $45 to replace a set of blinds –– prior to being billed with any charges from the contractor. The subcontractor was paid approximately $700 to paint the entire apartment’s walls, hallways, bathrooms and more. The company was unable to provide documentation of the blinds being replaced, the complaint stated.

According to the NorthSteppe’s website , it provides living for students in homes and apartments within the Central, North and South University Districts.

NorthSteppe requires its tenants to complete a notice of intent to vacate 30 days before the apartment lease expires with the new address to receive their security deposit, according to the complaint. The company sends a representative to inspect the damages who “receives little training in distinguishing between damage that is a result of ordinary wear and tear and damage that is not.”

According to the complaint, NorthSteppe used the same lease form agreement with all tenants, which contained a provision relating to the tenant’s security deposit that the deposit can be used by the company toward a breach of the lease agreement or repairing intentional or reckless damages beyond normal wear and tear caused by the tenant, the tenant’s family, dependents or guests.

Security deposits were only to be returned if the tenant performed all terms of the lease, paid on time and left the premises in good condition, the complaint stated.

Once the damage is recorded, the bookkeeper compares the damages and inserts the report into its “Move-Out Spreadsheet,” which the complaint stated assigns excessive costs to common problems and to clean portions of the apartment.

According to the complaint, the company is “well aware” that the charges on the Move-Out Summary exceed the actual cost, generating the amounts before waiting on estimates from the contractors on the real costs.

The complaint stated the plaintiffs asked the court to appoint them as class representatives of other students who underwent the same treatment, appoint counsel for the class and award compensatory and/or statutory damages against NorthSteppe believed to be in excess of $25,000, plaintiffs’ costs and expenses for counsel and additional relief that the court deems just.

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