PA Law - Security Deposit and Lease

18 Replies

Hello Everyone!

I had received really great advice last time I had issues with my landlords so I figured I would come back to ask another serious question.

I took everyone's advice and got out of the location I was currently in because of issues a lot of members said I couldn't win because of the way the system is.

I cleaned up the commercial property and did my walk through and returned my keys. I asked about the security deposit and how I should expect it back he had told me to text my address to him to make sure it matched what was on file so it got to the right place. He also said he didn't know what the time frame was for returning it so he would check and I had mentioned I believe its 30 days, which PA is by state law 30 days. He said that was okay because he wouldn't hold out on me anyway till the last minute so just text him, which i did.

Half way through the month I text him just making sure he didn't send anything because I haven't received anything and 3,000 is a lot to go missing. I never heard a response...

36 Days pass and I went to visit. I asked where it was and he had said the lease says 60, which pay law states it can only be 30, and he is working it out and going to take all 60. I said to him that he had said he wasn't waiting until last minute, and he kept repeating that hes executing what the lease says at 60 and I repeated to him LAW in PA is 30 and I need to notify him if I don't receive it. He starts yelling at me for accusing him of being a liar and all this other stuff and I just had told him in PA if its not returned within the 30 days I notify and then if taken to court can be awarded double the security deposit....

He yells at me more and says he can F*cking hold out as long as he wants and he doesnt F*cking owe me anything and I can come for the money and chase him for it. This goes on and on with him raging out, hes other brother who is even bigger of a scumbag comes out and tells me its time to go with the other brother leaving it at that I can chase him for it and take him to court.

Where do I stand in all this? I keep following protocol and law and I keep getting screwed. 60 days in there lease or not that isn't PA law.

Thank you for any and all advice!

-Chris

Do you have a copy of the lease to verify what he is saying?

Yes Jason I do , it does say 60, but I know a lot of stuff I had read said that no matter what the LAW on a deposit is 30. I didn't even notice it said 60 in the lease to be honest, but it does.

If indeed that is the case I suppose wait another 3.5 weeks and then file? Because they are not giving it back at all it seems and was going to make me fight for it no matter what the outcome was, him yelling at me or not.

Thank you for your response.

I would write everything down so you have a timeline of events, what was said, etc.  I also believe PA law states 30 days but you should check your lease.  Do you have a move in and move out checklist with pictures and notes on the property's condition?  If you can prove the condition is the same when you moved in as when you moved out you should get all of it back.

Personally I think your PM is being unethical so I would look at court proceedings to collect your deposit as well as damages if he did violate PA law.  Check out your local real estate clubs and attorneys that deal with this to see what your options are.  Most laws sway in favor of the tenant if everything is documented so you should be able to collect this money fairly easily.

If it said 60 days best thing to do is consult a real estate attorney in your area or wait out the 60 days if it won't be a financial burden.  Most give a free 30 minute consultation to review your issues then from there you pay.....this way at least you know what it will cost.

Originally posted by @Eddie Werner :

I would write everything down so you have a timeline of events, what was said, etc.  I also believe PA law states 30 days but you should check your lease.  Do you have a move in and move out checklist with pictures and notes on the property's condition?  If you can prove the condition is the same when you moved in as when you moved out you should get all of it back.

Personally I think your PM is being unethical so I would look at court proceedings to collect your deposit as well as damages if he did violate PA law.  Check out your local real estate clubs and attorneys that deal with this to see what your options are.  Most laws sway in favor of the tenant if everything is documented so you should be able to collect this money fairly easily.

 Hi Eddie!

Like I had mentioned to Jason the lease does state 60. Although 30 is PA state law, not sure if the law overrides whats in a lease or not for something like that.

I had pictures taken the day previous to walk-through and to be honest another tenant was in there 2 days later already changing the property around so there was definitely no damages.

I do not have a checklist. but my wife did take pictures of everything in that place before handing over the keys.

I do have a time-line of events written down of communication and all that as well like you had mentioned.

-Chris

It may be easier just to file a small claims suit at day 60 if you haven't received your money, you could spend the 3 weeks gathering any documentation that you are entitled to receive it back. If you do file suit, you can bet he is going to say there were damages, etc. I don't know the law there, and I don't know if a lease can supersede state law. I guess you could hire an attorney to send him a strongly worded letter on his letterhead. I know from personal experience that it's easy to get emotional about these situations, but try to maintain your cool. Regardless of whether it is right or wrong, this guy has your money, and upsetting him will not encourage him to pay you sooner.

Sorry for the situation

You said it was a commercial lease - is that correct?  I'm not so sure that the 30 day number applies, that might be for residential. 

 I don't do commercial, so I can't say for certain, but in commercial you usually have the terms and conditions contained in the lease. So see what the lease states. 

Originally posted by @Jason Dugan :

It may be easier just to file a small claims suit at day 60 if you haven't received your money, you could spend the 3 weeks gathering any documentation that you are entitled to receive it back. If you do file suit, you can bet he is going to say there were damages, etc. I don't know the law there, and I don't know if a lease can supersede state law. I guess you could hire an attorney to send him a strongly worded letter on his letterhead. I know from personal experience that it's easy to get emotional about these situations, but try to maintain your cool. Regardless of whether it is right or wrong, this guy has your money, and upsetting him will not encourage him to pay you sooner.

Sorry for the situation

 Jason, thanks again for your response.

Like I said to Eddie, I have timeline of events and what was said, as well as the texts saved and pictures of the location on my surrendering of it.

I will get all my documentation together and make sure my ducks are in a row. 

I didn't raise my voice, or yell at him at all throughout the entire conversation , that's how him and his brother are, and that's when he basically told me to f*ck off and come fight for my money because I was stating the obvious.

I may reach out to my current landlord as well hes a super awesome guy and see if he has had anything like this come up as well and what he would say, as well as reach out to a lawyer perhaps as well.

Obviously money is tight for me so lawyer is hard to do sometimes.

The landlord can't write a lease with a clause that contradicts, and is in violation of, state law.  In Pennsylvania, as you pointed out, the landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within 30 days after the tenant has surrendered the rental property to the landlord. 

Additionally, Pennsylvania law says that if your landlord doesn't give you a written list of damage within 30 days, then he loses the right to keep any part of your deposit and loses the right to sue you for damage to the property.  The law also gives you the right to sue him and collect extra money.

In this particular case, your landlord has made his intentions very clear (i.e. he's not paying you and you can "chase him for it").  I personally wouldn't wait any longer and would file a lawsuit to get my money back. 

Here's some more reading on the topic that might be of interest to you:

http://www.palawhelp.org/resource/security-deposits-4?ref=3UCEC

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/pennsylvania-security-deposits-36229.html

@Kyle J.  - that is all correct for RESIDENTIAL leases, and even the first link you posted opens with wording to the effect that it applies to housing. For commercial, it can be different ...

Originally posted by @Kyle J. :

The landlord can't write a lease with a clause that contradicts, and is in violation of, state law.  In Pennsylvania, as you pointed out, the landlord must return the tenant's security deposit within 30 days after the tenant has surrendered the rental property to the landlord. 

Additionally, Pennsylvania law says that if your landlord doesn't give you a written list of damage within 30 days, then he loses the right to keep any part of your deposit and loses the right to sue you for damage to the property.  The law also gives you the right to sue him and collect extra money.

In this particular case, your landlord has made his intentions very clear (i.e. he's not paying you and you can "chase him for it").  I personally wouldn't wait any longer and would file a lawsuit to get my money back. 

Here's some more reading on the topic that might be of interest to you:

http://www.palawhelp.org/resource/security-deposits-4?ref=3UCEC

http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/pennsylvania-security-deposits-36229.html

 Hi Kyle!

These are ones I've read so i am glad that I am thinking on the right , my question is similar to the gentlemen below you. Is residential matching commercial with these? I am thinking a standard commercial property lease is probably the same as residential.

Thanks!

Originally posted by @Steve Babiak :

@Kyle J.  - that is all correct for RESIDENTIAL leases, and even the first link you posted opens with wording to the effect that it applies to housing. For commercial, it can be different ...

 Hi Steve!

I was thinking the same thing, but I can't find any true documentation saying it would be different. Any reason you may be saying this from an experience or word of mouth?

Thanks!

@Chris Pincus  

I actually missed the part about it being a commercial lease. With that in mind, there are some differences between residential and commercial as @Steve Babiak  correctly pointed out. You could always consult with a local RE attorney to be sure, but in a commercial lease it is possible that a lease can dictate things like that. 

In any event, you should continue documenting everything and be prepared for the possibility of a lawsuit given your landlord's attitude and demeanor towards you. 

Best of luck. 

The law presumes that parties to a commercial lease are more sophisticated than those to a residential lease, and so generally will hold the parties to the terms of their agreement, i.e., their lease. I recommend you operate on the assumption that the 60 day period is enforceable.

@Chris Pincus  spend this three weeks getting everything ready in case this goes to court, which it prob will. I am not sure if PA requires deposits to be held in separate accounts, many states do, I am guessing he doesn't have the money to return, in this case he could have other issues and you may even get extra damages. I would ask for prove it was held in accordance with law. No legal advice, and do get a lawyer if you have to go to court. You may be entitled to far more than your deposit. Best of Luck and sorry for your experience, certainly the majority of us investors are different than the way you have been treated.

As a follow up to my earlier post, take a look at Section 250.512 of the PA LL-T act (google it). While that section states that any attempt to waive the provisions in that section (which includes the 30 day return of security deposits provision) is unenforceable, it also states that the section applies to residential leases, not commercial leases.

Hey All,

So i reached out to a lawyer that is local that I actually had help from before. He did say that if the lease states 60 commercial is different and I have to follow the 60.

Residential is far different then commercial, he also believes that double the deposit may not be for commercial either , he wasn't 100% sure on that though.

Also he said if I take them to court then if the lease says I have to pay their fees then I have to pay their legal fees? That doesn't make sense to me as I am fighting for my security deposit back.

Seems to me like landlords can really be scummy to good people and nothing protects people from stuff like this. It's a shame because like stated early I am sure not all Landlords are this way, but ones like this can continue to do business.

-Chris

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