Tallinn, Estonia: how to deal with dishonest landlords

Hello new citizens of Tallinn, I don’t live there any more, but I know the city very well, I lived there for four years and unluckily I know also very well some dishonest landlords that tried to literally steal my deposit at the end of a rental contract.

Today I want to start with V.V.

In 2008/2009 I rented from this person a small studio (1 room) for 9 months, at that time the market was just before the big crash that Estonia had in the real estate in 2009 and 2010.
I always paid in time the very high rent (5000 EEK, ~330 EUR) per month, even if Mr. V. never wanted to invest any money and making His house better and making me happier. I asked many times to fix shower leakings, buy me a proper bed and other stuff, but He was always reluctant doing so. Failed also was my request to lower the rent to adapt to the new market conditions in early 2009, He went down to 4500 EEK, ~300 EUR, ridiculous since the market crashed for much more than a small 10%.

So around the end of the Winter in 2009 I sent to Him an email saying that I was going to terminate the contract and move to a new place. Mr. V. initially proposed to lower the rent for more than 10%, but I was tired of Him, He has never been a good landlord and I wanted to get rid of that. So the day I had to return the keys to Him I made a huge mistake: He asked me to drop the keys into the mailbox without checking through the house, which actually He was very happy with the three times He came in during my last month. I should have been suspicious about that.

After I left the keys He sent to me two emails stating:

Dear Marco,

4th of April I have been in apartment Roopa 4a-1 after you check out.

Condition of apartment is not in shape which I expected to see. I expected to see the apartment in the same condition like it was in the beginning of renting, cleaning should be done by your means before the end of renting period.

According our contract chapter 4.10 I have 10 (ten) bank days time for returning your safety deposit in amount 10 000 eek minus sum necessary to cover my claims. I need a time to think how I can resolve this issue and make a list of claims.

I will keep you informed.

Regards,

V.V.

The day after one more email:

Dear Marco,

After you vacated the premises rented to you, I had a meeting with T. S., the real estate agent who organised the letting, and we entered the apartment simultaneously. The apartment was checked thoroughly and we came to a joint decision that the deposit will not be returned and the compensation claim for the state in which the place was left will be more than the deposit.
Any invoices and bills from repair carried out at the apartment will be forwarded to you.

You have all rights to approach any legal advicers with a complaint against the decision to claim for damages.

Regards,
V.

Obviously He never came back to me with any damages list and/or invoices, simply, there were no issues in the house, He just wanted to keep my deposit.
Now just to tell you who is T. S.: She worked (works?) for a real estate agency. Paid by myself on the day when I signed the contract, She stated 2 years later false things in front of a Judge during a court session. Her words, not only didn’t help Mr. V. to win the case, but made my point stronger since She just showed that didn’t remember at all about the house, was probably trying to make a favour to Mr. V. to get some more commissions from Him, or they are friends, but this doesn’t matter, She was very dishonest too.

But let’s step back for a moment, what happened? How did I manage to win and get the money back after all these lies?
Well first of all, if you are victim of a stolen deposit or any other abuse from your landlord, read the Estonian law, it is very clear and is both in Estonian and in English.
The articles that regulates the rental deposit are: § 308, § 334, § 336, § 338. I recommend to read also: § 94, § 113, § 335 and § 337 just in case.
Essentially it says: lessor has two months to notify the lessee of any damages. After that he has four more months (six in total from the end of the contract) to send any invoice/evidence.
It also says that natural wear or deterioration cannot be part of the claimed damages, the problem is to demonstrate that they really are, but Judges know this and usually law should be more on the lessee side rather than the lessor, since they are the weakest part.

It was obvious right away that V. V. couldn’t keep ~330 EUR for just some unspecified “cleaning” and “other issues”, especially after He did NOT provide any evidence nor any invoice to me, within 6 months, as Estonian law rules.

So what to do?
The problem is: for small amount of money, having a lawyer is too expensive, they will ask probably more money to just start a court case. So do it yourself as I did!
The Estonian law is quite clear and easy on the topic, plus you have one more weapon for rental issue not greater than 3200 EUR: Üürikomisjoni (The Rental Commission, see the law), a very useful and simplified pre-court step that you don’t need to pay and you don’t need to have a lawyer to rise a case.
The problem: you can file any issue within six months from the end of the contract, yes, the same time that the lessor has to send you proper invoices and evidence, according that He or She provided proper notification within two months of any issues.

So what you can do about this?
First of all be sure to send at least one email, better if after two months, to ask for the deposit back. It will follow a refusal, most of the times that’s it, lessor are not that smart and they don’t know the law themself as you now do.
Then wait for five months and 20 days from the expiration date of the rental contract, in the meanwhile prepare a proper document (must be in Estonian yes), describing everything in the details and mention the Estonian laws, you can also ask for interests from the beginning of the rental contract, that’s right, the lessor is supposed to put your deposit in a different bank account and the interests belong to the lessee, it is the law!
Then file it to the Üürikomisjoni here: http://www.tallinn.ee/est/Tallinna-Uurikomisjoni-kontakandmed
When the lessor will receive the claim will be past the six months and will be too late for Him/Her to counter file anything against you. This is the smartest way to protect against dishonest landlords.

Simple no? Well not really.
If you are not speaking natively Estonian you’ll need an interpreter during the court case and you’ll not be able to expense it even if you win, not here at least. But is doable, I have done it.
Also the problem is that the decision might be not final, the loosing party can file against the “real” Court an appeal within 20 days after the decision arrived to both parties. But at least at the Court you’ll be able to expense everything. So do not give up!

Now to finish what happened to V. V. and why you should NEVER rent anything from Him, well I won of course against Him in front of the Rental Commission, He didn’t like this,
He appealed but He lost again in front of the Court. The Court that listened also Mrs Tiia Sooaluste from Pindi Real Estate as Mr. V.’s witness, that instead of defending myself which I paid for Her work, lied about everything, eventually She “crashed” against my questions, revealing all the lies.
At the end after I won also the Court case, V.V. didn’t want to pay back to me the deposit! Yes, I had to go to some credit retrieval company to get them back, and anyway took 1 more year! That guy is unbelievable, He didn’t want to give up even after two sentences.

Now that I know all of this, how can I prevent it?
Unluckily there is little you can do: what you can try is to negotiate with your landlord to not pay the last month of rent and use the deposit instead, however if He/She says “No” like V.V. did with me, then law states that in theory you should pay the last month too.

My advise is to not go against the law, but other things you can do are:

  1. take a lot of pictures, if possible at the beginning of the rental before signing the contract, and of course at the end;
  2. the last day of the contract go through the apartment with the landlord, but also call a friend that can testify later of any false statement;
  3. do not sign any paper that states false things, better to not sign bullshits.

And good luck!

5 thoughts on “Tallinn, Estonia: how to deal with dishonest landlords”

  1. Thank you for your article. Estonian people are very smart. I think that it is because they
    have been under germans, danish, sveden and russian So you can figure what they have suffered.
    Just deal with estonian speaking asking what they do, And they tell you what they
    are. And then make your move.
    Regards JM

    1. V.V., despite probably his Estonian citizenship, doesn’t even speak properly Estonian, his mother language is Russian. I know how to speak with Estonians, very nice people, this post is about dishonest people in Estonia though, doesn’t matter their nationality.

  2. I did tried to rent one apartment from this V., but after seeing the contract and after some negotiations I understood it would be wrong.
    First sign was difference in rental – on the website 480 eur, at the meeting it was already 490 EUR or smth. Some 10 or 20 eur is a small money but this is a sign of a future fight for each penny.

    And the most wonderful was the contract, the main idea was – you give money and fix/repair inside apartments at your own costs.

    its like you buy a ticket to airplane and in case if machinery needs some urgent maintenance all the passengers should pay for it. This is unbelievable attitude, thats true

  3. I rented from M.M. at Pikk 67 apt. 4A, Talinn, Estonia 10133. When my visa expired I left at the beginning of the month, giving notice. I paid 600 euros for each month, 600 euros for agency fee which I never got back, 600 euros of deposit. Originally the landlord demanded I pay one month ahead of time so the move-in cost would have been 2100 euros. Instead I paid 1800 euros. For me this was more or less all of my money. I sold a painting to a client in the States and was able to pay for rent the following month. The apartment had heating yet everything was electric so I never used the heat. The bill still came out to an extraordinary amount, 90 euros for not using heat or even the lights in the house. I bought candles instead.
    The location was good and the dealer was young and very convincing. He was there to entice one to move in. I did not know how cold the place would end up being. Once I used the heaters for guests and my guest’s teeth started to chatter. They were native Estonians and used to the cold. This was at the end of February. During the nights I wore two or three layers of clothing to deal with the cold. Often inside the temperature was lower than outside since when I stepped outside I would automatically feel warmer.
    I am glad I did not agree to pay one month ahead of time. He would have kept that. M.M. and R.S., the dealer from Laam Real Estate, both agreed that no deposit would be returned. I knew that some of my deposit had to be used for an unpaid electricity bill which I suspect came out to 200 since again I did not use heating the month of March. They said that damages to the place were so severe that it exceeded the deposit I gave. Of course I never made any damage to anything. On top of that, they charged 200 additional euros for an unexpected cleaning fee. The only cleaning necessary may have been mopping and sweeping since I could not get the dust in all of the areas. On top of this, he wants to charge or bill me two extra months in rent.

    What do you think? How do I go about this?

    Trius

    ps M.M. is rich from racing cars. Apparently he has some business sense since he knows well how to rip one off.

    1. Post has been edited to avoid complaints from relevant people, I don’t know them and I cannot tell if they are dishonest or not.
      The pattern looks similar though, they have excuses to not return the deposit and they have the real estate agent that is accommodating the landlord’s business.
      Anyway, as said in the post, file a case against the Üürikomisjoni, you have six months from the end of the contract and is for free, you don’t need a lawyer, just read the laws and cite them.
      However if you want to have more success and claim also expenses on top of the deposit, skip that and go to the real court.
      Unluckily what Estonia’s laws are missing is not laws, but a third party that should hold the deposit and return it only after inspection with all the parties, this third party person should be not involved in any real estate business, to avoid to be ‘friend’ with landlords. Unluckily this issue is underestimated by the law makers in Estonia and it is a pity, it really is, because Tallinn is a great city, but is too easy to steal the deposit nowadays and many people probably are not even bothering to go for court.

      Good luck.

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