I am really looking for expert opinion, if you don't have real life experience with this situation, please note your own expertise.
I have a collections company aggressively pursuing a debt that I believe was illegally filed by an apartment management I lived in. About a month after moving out, and not hearing from the company about my deposit, I called, to which they responded that I owed them almost $1000 for replacing the carpet. I have no paperwork from when I moved in and did a walk-through (without the land lords present), on which I noted the carpet already had significant damage, and should be replaced.
I read in the GA landlord and tenant handbook that the landlord must be present for the initial walk-through, or else they are not legally allowed to maintain the damage deposit at the end of the lease. I also found out, after moving out, from a friend who had previously lived next door in the same apartment complex, for a year before me, that the apartment above mine had had a plumbing event that had flooded my apartment before I moved in; the lease says the place had never been flooded.
I made the mistake of never protesting the debt in writing, but when I was on the phone and learning about my deposit retention, I protested verbally that the carpet needed to be replaced when I moved in.
What should I do? Should I send a letter to the management company threatening litigation if they don't retract the pursuit of collections? Should I contest the collection with this evidence to the collection company and/or the credit bureaus? Should I just take it straight to litigation, which I would really rather do as a last resort? In GA, tenants can collect a refund of the deposit plus interest, as well as legal fees, but they say that this is only assured if the tenant can prove they immediately contested the charge, which I only did verbally, I have no physical evidence, really my only litigious stance is that they didn't do a physical walk through with me when I moved in, and my witness to the previous flooding, which I don't have physical proof of... Is this sufficient? The apartment complex can just lie and not bring anything in their records that doesn't help their case.