Landlord not returning security deposit!

11 Replies

Hi.. Please guide me.
My landlord is this old couple so all their dealings are done by their daughter who is a very difficult woman. We vacated our apt as per lease ending on 31-Aug.. I went with my realtor on 1-Sep to the house to get something i had forgotten there. The old lady let us in. The daughters husband is a contractor and was already working in the house. She told me she has 30 days to return deposit so i didnt diturb her. on the 31st day when i asked her, she said shes waiting for some quotations for repairs. So i sent her a demand letter and on 9th oct i filed a small claims case. 1 day later i got a check with $1800 deducted from the deposited and a long letter full of lies saying why shes deducted. Im really confused as to what to do? We left the house really well and have a video of that too. She had also given us a reference letter just a month before leaving and we have our previous landorlds reference letter too stating we take great care of the house. Should i encash the balance amount shes sent me? Please guide me

She missed the state required return time?   In many states, you'd be able to sue for triple the deposit.  I'd consider a lawyer.  At a minimum, you may try a lawyer letter stating intent to sue for triple the deposit(if allowed by state law) if full deposit is not returned.

Definitely keep your small claims court date. Send a certified letter to landlord quoting the state law and time frame, and offer to accept "only" your full damage deposit in exchange for dropping the court date. Demand payment before the court date, or change the amount you sue for to whatever state law allows (triple the amount?). It no longer matters what damage was to the property, as they violated state law by not either returning your deposit, or sending you a written notice as to why they are charging some of your deposit. Do not speak to them in person. Everything in writing. 

In my jurisdiction a wrongfully withheld deposit is double the amount wrongfully withheld plus attorney fees.  Not hard to find a lawyer to take your case if it has merit since the landlord will be paying the bill.  Contact your local bar association for referrals.

If you're in a state like Massachusetts even if you're in the wrong and they DIDN"T put the money in a separate interest bearing account they're liable for triple damages.  I had a landlord 30 years ago attempt to extort me by keeping the deposit, took him to court and left with our money x2......

It's common for people to withhold funds and hope you'll never sue. If she missed the deadline, you may get an automatic win and a significant pay-off. I'd stick with small claims and see what you can get.

@Amandeep Sawhney.  Among the "magic words" you mentioned include, "... and we have a video of that too.  She had also given us a reference letter..."

Two other questions:  1) Did the landlord and yourself do a "move-in checklist" for damages and other discrepancies?  2) Did you also do a "move-out checklist" for same purpose?  If yes, wonderful!  If not, then if you have a complete and revealing walk-through video, along with still pictures, you likely have this landlord where you want them.  In other words, if they have no proof, but you do, then you win as most states have landlord/tenant law that favors the tenant.

As was stated above, keep your small claims court date and be prepared to take your proof, as well as a VERY detailed account of everything you can remember from conversations and other occurrences between you and the landlord, or the landlord's rep, to court with you.

In Colorado, for example, the landlord must return the deposit in full, or issue a check and a detailed statement covering the amounts not returned, within 30 days.  Some states are different, so Google Landlord/Tenant Law in your state and you will find the answers.  As well, I do not believe you will need to lawyer up, because if you prevail in court, I suspect the judge will just award you treble damages, but check your local laws online to be sure.  And, if there are doubts, engage an attorney in one of the usual 30 minutes FREE consultation sessions.

Sorry you are going through this!  It surely doesn't make the complexities of moving any more fun!!