Give Me Back My Deposit!

September 9, 2011

One common question from tenants is how the tenant can get her initial deposits back at the end of the tenancy. The first thing you need to know is that a tenant is only entitled to recover refundable deposits, and not non-refundable deposits. For instance, many leases require a non-refundable pet-deposit if you plan to bring a pet into the rental unit; such deposits are not recoverable. However, many other initial deposits are in fact refundable, and the following steps must be timely completed to recover them.

1. Move Out: The first thing you must do is actually vacate the premises.

2. Turn in The Keys: The tenant must not only vacate the premises, but must also surrender possession of the property. In practice, surrendering possession is accomplished by handing over the keys to the property.

3. Make Written Demand: Once possession is handed over, the tenant must make written demand for the return of the tenant’s deposits. To be safe, the written demand should demand the return of all refundable deposits or in the alternative an accounting showing why the deposits will not be returned.

4. Wait: Once steps 1 through 3 have been completed, the landlord has 14 days within which to either return the deposits or provide an accounting showing why the deposits will not be returned. The most common reason a deposit is not returned is the landlord uses the deposit to make “necessary repairs.”

5. Enjoy Your Money or Come See an Attorney: If the landlord returns your deposits, then enjoy. However, if the landlord fails to return your deposits you should seek immediate legal counsel. Failure to return refundable deposits or at least an accounting for why no deposits will be returned may result in the landlord owing the tenant additional money.

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