Fair Contract Case 2

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Logan Rental Contract Dispute

You rent a house in the Logan neighborhood with six of your friends in the Fall of 2020. It’s an old house, that could really use some care, but you are a college student, and it’s really cheap to live there. You sign the lease on behalf of the group in May based on pictures of the rooms only. In addition to rent, you pay a $3000 security deposit. Some of the previous tenants sublet through the summer from people in your group. You all move in in September.
The lease requires you to remove all personal property at the end of your stay, but you were never very formal with the sublets and it is already unclear who's stuff is being left behind. Before you move in, you mention to the landlord, Mike, that there seems to be stuff from previous tenants in the house. He tells you not to worry about it, use anything you find, but don't add to add it. There is also some damage to rooms that did not show up in the pictures your friends took when you leased the house. The landlord kind of shrugs about that and implies that "that's kind of the deal."
After about six months of living in the house, you renew the lease with Mike. But then things get complicated because Mike sells the house to another landlord. You never really meet the new landlord. There is no walk through or discussion about the stuff left behind by years of students and Mike's laid back (or negligent) approach to things.
Your experience with the new landlord was not great. He’s just pretty cold and business like when he does show up, and he doesn't show up often. He just didn’t seem interested in the problems with the house, so you stop reporting problems to him.
You graduate, and when you prepare to move out, the new landlord, Darth, demands that you pay to have all the junk in the house removed (a cost of $1200) even though most of it does not belong to you or your group. He also claims that you were negligent by either causing or not reporting problems or existing damage and that has led to further damages (some leaking pipes caused damage to a wall, but also a banister that was weak and needed attention has now completely fallen apart). He figures the cost of this at about $1800. Consequently, he is now planning to keep your $3000 security deposit. You point out the understanding you had with Mike about both the junk and the damages, but Darth just points out the requirements of the lease, which also obligate you to report damages. He doesn't consider Mike's "understanding" with you as binding on him, but he agrees to meet with you to discuss it.
You are about to meet the landlord to discuss this issue. What position will you take? What is a fair outcome for this situation? How do you assess the obligations and duties of the varies parties? Be sure to use some of the concepts we have developed for discussing fairness and justice in contracts: fairness, autonomy, reciprocity, benefits, reliance, implicit and explicit agreements and understandings.