When security deposit disputes occur between landlords and renters, there are laws in place to ensure the money is handled properly. If your landlord does not return your security deposit, misuses it or fails to follow the proper inspection steps, you do have recourse in filing a lawsuit—so long as you fulfilled your tenant expectations correctly. Typically these legal services are offered with no out of pocket costs to the client.
DID YOUR LANDLORD FAIL TO PERFORM A MOVE-IN/MOVE-OUT INSPECTION?
In order to keep a security deposit from a tenant, the landlord must perform a written move in and move out inspection. The inspection must be signed by both the landlord and tenant. It must contain a detailed description of the conditions of the property, including things like, flooring, windows, walls, and all appliances supplied by the landlord.
DID YOUR LANDLORD TELL YOU, in writing, WHY YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT WAS WITHHELD?
In order to keep a security deposit from a tenant, the landlord must provide an accounting to the tenant within 30 days of moving out. This accounting must be in writing and give the exact reasons the deposit was not returned and the costs associated with any repairs.
A landlord is responsible for proving that all all of the correct steps were followed if a deposit is withheld. If the landlord fails to follow the law and improperly withholds the deposit, the tenant is entitled to three times the amount improperly withheld plus all of the tenant's attorney fees. That means you receive three times the deposit as cash in your pocket, no strings attached.
There are some restrictions you should be aware of. Typically, the tenant must not have abandoned the apartment without notice. If the tenant terminates a lease early, the tenant still needs to give the landlord notice, turn in the keys, and try to arrange a move-out inspection. The tenant must provide the landlord with an accurate contact phone number, email, and forwarding address. If the landlord can show that an attempt at contact was made and that the tenant did not provide that contact information, then the landlord may not be liable for triple damages and attorney fees. Finally, the tenant must have proof that they paid a security deposit. A signed lease agreement indicating that a deposit was paid suffices.