Previously I have written that landlords often fall into traps by failing to return security deposits or provide a list of damages within 30 days of the tenant's departure from the rental property.
I have also pointed out the consequences to the landlord from failing to provide the list of damages in a timely manner.
Landlords often say that it took too long to get an estimate of the damages from their contractor. While that may be true, waiting for the actual estimate before sending the "30 day letter" is a bad idea. Many courts will enforce the penalties against the landlord even when the landlord is legitimately trying to get accurate information to provide in the letter.
It is unnecessary for a landlord to lose a security deposit dispute for this reason. If the landlord does not yet have an actual estimate, he can simply list the damaged items in the house in a letter to the tenant. The landlord can inform the tenant that the security deposit will not be returned because the damage exceeds the deposit (provided that is true). The landlord need not provide an exact dollar amount for the actual repair bill. (The landlord will need estimates (and perhaps live testimony) by the time of any hearing, but the rules of evidence do not apply to writing the 30 day letter.) The statute provides such a short response time, it is better to simply write whatever information is available without waiting for further detail.