Security deposit forfeited?

11 Replies

I signed a one year lease and moved out one month early. I asked the landlord if it would be OK and he said it was fine. I found him tenants with good credit before the end of the month. Steam cleaned the carpets, etc, and he determined there was no damage. New tenants moved in 8 days before the month I paid was up and signed a new year lease with a new deposit. I requested via certified mail that my security deposit be returned, but he said that it was forfeited due to a clause in the lease that said it was forfeited if any provision of the lease was violated, in this case not staying the final month. He sent me a letter stating the forfeiture for that reason as well and did not list any damage. He had no losses and lead me to believe I would get my deposit back initially. Should I take this to small claims court? I live in Texas.

@Mike Smithy

Its been a while since I was licensed in Texas, but I seem to recall that the landlord can only deduct actual financial loss, in the event of a premature vacancy. If you found a replacement tenant that he found suitable and moved them in before you entered in any unpaid portion of your lease, I would expect you to receive a full refund of the security deposit.

I would check with the state laws and see how much you can sue him for in small claims court. Here in Nevada, these shenanigans would cost the landlord twice the security deposit in small claims court.

-Christopher

Not giving legal advice, but moving out before the lease expires does not mean you forfeit the security deposit. The landlord can only deduct for actual damages, which can be physical damage to the property or lost rent. Since the landlord didn't lose any rent and there were no damages, I can't see any way this would hold up.

If your lease is the standard TAR lease (I'm guessing it's not), there is a clause which deals with early termination. If you move out early, the landlord can charge a fee even if you find an acceptable replacement tenant. That fee would be clearly stated in the lease.

I would contact the Consumer Affairs department at the Texas AG office. They deal with tenant's rights violations.

There is no forfeiting a deposit in Texas.  The landlord is required to return the deposit and/or provide accounting within 30 days of moving out AND providing a forwarding address.  The landlord could be held responsible for 3x the deposit if they fail to do so

What provisions are in the lease agreement you signed ?  If the owner used a Texas Association of Realtors(TAR) lease, a provision exists for finding a replacement tenant and charges the tenant with a % of one months rent

Edit : Fred types faster than me !

Originally posted by @Fred Heller :

Not giving legal advice, but moving out before the lease expires does not mean you forfeit the security deposit. The landlord can only deduct for actual damages, which can be physical damage to the property or lost rent. Since the landlord didn't lose any rent and there were no damages, I can't see any way this would hold up.

If your lease is the standard TAR lease (I'm guessing it's not), there is a clause which deals with early termination. If you move out early, the landlord can charge a fee even if you find an acceptable replacement tenant. That fee would be clearly stated in the lease.

I would contact the Consumer Affairs department at the Texas AG office. They deal with tenant's rights violations.

 He wrote the lease himself. As far as the specified penalty it states that if any provision of the lease is violated, in this case early termination, the security deposit is forfeited. That page of the lease is what he sent me as my itemized list after move out as well. I looked over the entire lease and the written notice of intent to move requirement was not underlined or bold either by the way. I sent a request for return of security deposit with a forwarding address a few months ago. He is now refusing all certified mail. 

You actually sound like a good  tenant. You left the place nice and clean helped put a new tenant in it, and he doesn't want to give back deposit. I would go after him. Good Luck.

I think the fact that you actually SAVED him money means that you should prevail. He never would have gotten it rented in essence before your lease was up.

Let's hope so. He contacted me again through text and says he will countersue if I take him to court. He is now claiming new tenants took possession of the house a month after they actually did, and therefore he will sue me for the month of lost rent. I'm definitely taking him to court. 

@Mike Smithy  If it were me, I would file the paperwork, serve him, and see if y'all can settle outside of court. I literally had the same issue with a landlord many years ago, and upon getting served, it shook the landlord so much that we settled for something that almost made me whole. I was still pissed, but at least I felt vindicated. Of course, if your landlord wants to go through with a court appearance, it sounds like you'll be in good shape to win. And my landlord threatened a countersuit as well...my uncle lawyer told me it was nothing but a scare tactic, and any reasonable judge would throw something like that out without question. Good luck - let us know how it turns out.