Couple has split - Deposit question

12 Replies

My tenants, an unmarried couple, had a domestic violence issue and the court says the guy gets to stay in the apartment. (She was the abuser.) He wants her off the lease, which is fine. But, am I required to return half the deposit to her and have him pay her half? He's the one who has a job and pays the rent and paid the deposit. It seems I should just leave the deposit as is, but I like to go 'by the book'. Neither party is asking about it, nor has the court provided any directive. It's a new one for me, so I want to be sure I'm doing this right.

@Renee R. It seems like you answered the question yourself ... You are correct, assuming that your lease doesn't say otherwise. Good luck!

Originally posted by @Renee R. :

My tenants, an unmarried couple, had a domestic violence issue and the court says the guy gets to stay in the apartment. (She was the abuser.) He wants her off the lease, which is fine. But, am I required to return half the deposit to her and have him pay her half? He's the one who has a job and pays the rent and paid the deposit. It seems I should just leave the deposit as is, but I like to go 'by the book'. Neither party is asking about it, nor has the court provided any directive. It's a new one for me, so I want to be sure I'm doing this right.

My lease states the security deposit goes back to whoever is named for that specifically in the lease; they need to fill that out before they get the keys. Married or unmarried, I only want to deal with one point of contact.

I always keep it with the apartment because that's where my risk is.  No payouts until the apartment is vacant, I receive the keys and I inspect for damages.

I agree with @Stone Teran on this.  Let the couple fight it out how the security deposit is to be divided. 

Where did the deposit come from?  If it was an account with his name and she is off the lease, I think you are pretty safe returning it to him when he moves out.  

The only way I would return any money to her at this point is if the guy staying gave me a check for the amount of deposit being returned.  Really the deposit is an issue for the two parties to resolve at this point.

One way to prevent an issue from coming up later might be to have the woman sign a termination of her lease that states the deposit will be refunded to the man who is staying.

If the lease is in both their names I return the deposit to all named parties on the lease unless they specifically provide agreement to do otherwise. I mostly deal with students on this issue. Since there is no vacancy in between if it is in both their names I would make sure the documentation is in place to show that at the termination of the lease you followed local law.  For us this would mean returning the deposit within 20 days or an explanation as to withholding.  Now if they are breaking the lease and you are making a new lease with him  I would have her sign a release if you are going to rollover.  Alternately send a letter complying with local law describing what you did with the deposit.  This could get sticky at the termination date of the original lease if you don't handle it now.

Thank you, All, for your responses. It's interesting to see all the various approaches you suggest, and not one clear approach. I have decided to send the tenants a ‘Residential Lease Agreement Addendum – Termination of Obligation’, which would end the the rights and obligations of the woman based on mutual agreement of both. The tenant wants me to just issue a new lease without her name on it, but since they still have at least one upcoming hearing on the domestic violence/parenting arrangement, I want to keep it all above board. The guy doesn’t want to have her sign the agreement and wants to call her leaving ‘abandonment’. I explained abandonment would have apply to all tenants (so him as well), not just some (as I understand NH law). It’s quite an education to see how this plays out. I figure, since he has the income and pays the rent, it’s in his interest to get her off the lease, but it doesn’t really matter to me, unless she ends up being able to return to the apartment and he has to leave. Then, we’ve got a whole different ball game.

Originally posted by @Aly W. :
Originally posted by @Renee R.:

My tenants, an unmarried couple, had a domestic violence issue and the court says the guy gets to stay in the apartment. (She was the abuser.) He wants her off the lease, which is fine. But, am I required to return half the deposit to her and have him pay her half? He's the one who has a job and pays the rent and paid the deposit. It seems I should just leave the deposit as is, but I like to go 'by the book'. Neither party is asking about it, nor has the court provided any directive. It's a new one for me, so I want to be sure I'm doing this right.

My lease states the security deposit goes back to whoever is named for that specifically in the lease; they need to fill that out before they get the keys. Married or unmarried, I only want to deal with one point of contact.

 how does that work if both apply for the appt and give you the money? how would you know who's account it came out of?

that's a tough one.. i guess i'd give them each half when the prop is vacant.

Originally posted by @George P. :
Originally posted by @Aly W.:
Originally posted by @Renee R.:

My tenants, an unmarried couple, had a domestic violence issue and the court says the guy gets to stay in the apartment. (She was the abuser.) He wants her off the lease, which is fine. But, am I required to return half the deposit to her and have him pay her half? He's the one who has a job and pays the rent and paid the deposit. It seems I should just leave the deposit as is, but I like to go 'by the book'. Neither party is asking about it, nor has the court provided any directive. It's a new one for me, so I want to be sure I'm doing this right.

My lease states the security deposit goes back to whoever is named for that specifically in the lease; they need to fill that out before they get the keys. Married or unmarried, I only want to deal with one point of contact.

 how does that work if both apply for the appt and give you the money? how would you know who's account it came out of?

that's a tough one.. i guess i'd give them each half when the prop is vacant.

 I do it the way I described above; they need to specify in the lease who gets it back. 

Originally posted by @Renee R. :

My tenants, an unmarried couple, had a domestic violence issue and the court says the guy gets to stay in the apartment. (She was the abuser.) He wants her off the lease, which is fine. But, am I required to return half the deposit to her and have him pay her half? He's the one who has a job and pays the rent and paid the deposit. It seems I should just leave the deposit as is, but I like to go 'by the book'. Neither party is asking about it, nor has the court provided any directive. It's a new one for me, so I want to be sure I'm doing this right.

 The deposit needs to stay with the property. Document the request for the name to be taken off of the lease, and make sure that he qualifies on his own. Then let them figure out how to deal with any funds they split before moved in - this is their issue, not yours.

I recently had a similar situation.  A couple rented the place and then broke up a couple months before their one-year lease expired.

They actually put up with the situation and stayed living together for those couple months so they wouldn't have to break their lease.  They are forever in my mental book of "Awesome Tenants" for that.  In fact, I didn't even know they had broken up until they gave me their 30-day notice and told me they would not be renewing the lease and why.

Fortunately, there was no domestic violence aspect.  And they both moved out, neither one was staying.  They both informed me that he would receive the entire amount of the security deposit, but I had her sign a "Release of Rights to Security Deposit" form that I codged together from a similar document I found here on BP.  Just to make sure I had it in writing.

This has come up before. The BEST way I've seen it done is to put it in the lease beforehand how the payment will be broken up regardless of what occurs during the tenancy. So if the lease says the security deposit will be given to the guy, that's hwat happens, if it says it'll get split in two, then that's whats done.

since you don't have a time machine, here is what I would try and do. Terminate the lease, give them a check with both of their names on it for the deposit and let them decide how to break it up. Then, sign him up for  new lease and ask for a new deposit in the full amount.

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