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I own a quadplex in Cincinnati. Only 2 of the 4 units were occupied, but a tenant moved out on Monday, so I'm down to 1. The one that just moved out put all their trash by the road, not in a bin. My property manager went over today to inspect the unit after move out and found a citation on the door for $750! They told me they'll pay it and charge the tenant, but don't expect to collect anything from them.

The first question is, is there even a way to prove it was the tenants trash? I feel like they could say it was the other tenant or even just that it wasn't theirs.

The second question is can I charge it to them and at least take it out of the deposit, which was only $600, but at least I only eat $150 at that point.

The last question is, the citation said I could appeal. Do I have a chance at winning in a game of he said she said? I live in Tennessee, so I'd have to send my property manager, which will cost me more money. I'd hate to send them if I'm just going to have to pay it anyway.

Has anyone dealt with this before? Thanks.

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    Hoopdady, you mention Cincinnati as a location (which is good, as jurisdiction is often necessary, especially with land-lording questions). Would one be correct assuming the Cincinnati in Ohio? (I don't want to assume, as there are 6 cities named Cincinnati listed on Wikipedia, and curiously two of them are within Indiana). – sharur Aug 8 '18 at 21:33
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    @sharur yes. Cincinnati Ohio – Hoopdady Aug 8 '18 at 22:31
  • One way to prove it was the tenants' trash: if said trash contained pieces of mail or other items that contain their name. Whether you can now or previously have been able to legally search through said trash for this to be admissible and credible evidence, and what hoops you might have (had) to jump through, would depend on jurisdiction. Testimony of other tenants asserting it's not theirs might help, though if they don't testify to having witnessed the dumping the defendant could probably just say it was someone in some other building etc. – zibadawa timmy Aug 10 '18 at 2:26
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The one answerable question regards the legality of taking the damages out of the security deposit. Consulting the Ohio landlord-tenant law, the tenant has various obligations including to

Dispose of all rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean, safe, and sanitary manner

...

Comply with the requirements imposed on tenants by all applicable state and local housing, health, and safety codes

The citation should indicate the specific violation, but dumping trash in the street is a health violation. The act that says that if the tenant violates his obligation,

the landlord may recover any actual damages that result from the violation together with reasonable attorney's fees.

Causing a landlord to be saddled with a fine is actual damage. It would be pointless to contest the fine with the city, unless you are alleging that some vandal drove by and dumped trash in the road near your apartment. (Even then, unless you already reported supposed illegal dumping to the sheriff, it is unlikely that you wouldn't be held responsible).

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The first question is, is there even a way to prove it was the tenants trash? I feel like they could say it was the other tenant or even just that it wasn't theirs.

Perhaps, but even if you could, it wouldn't matter. As a landlord you are responsible for your tenant's trash.

The second question is can I charge it to them and at least take it out of the deposit, which was only $600, but at least I only eat $150 at that point.

Yes, you may do both of these things. As user6726 notes, this is even expressly authorized by law, even if the lease didn't give you that power already.

The last question is, the citation said I could appeal. Do I have a chance at winning in a game of he said she said? I live in Tennessee, so I'd have to send my property manager, which will cost me more money. I'd hate to send them if I'm just going to have to pay it anyway.

You have no realistic chance of winning. You should follow your property manager's advice by paying the fine and then trying to charge the tenant.

Has anyone dealt with this before?

Citations for leaving trash on the road are pretty uncommon. I see analogous cases, however, where my landlord clients are cited for failing to maintain landscaping or for failing to shovel snow from sidewalks under city ordinances, where the tenants are responsible for these task under the lease, routinely, and basically the same analysis applies.

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