When you vacate your apartment, there are only a few things a landlord may withhold from your security deposit. First, there are actual damages beyond normal wear and tear which the landlord can demonstrate he incurred an expense to repair. A landlord cannot arbitrarily assign a monetary figure for a damaged item, such as a hole in a wall or a broken window. He must show a receipt or cancelled check evidencing that he actually spent money to make the repair. If he used his full-time handyman, he cannot charge for the handyman’s time since no extra expense was incurred.
Landlords can’t stand the idea of having money in their account that they have to give back to tenants. As a result, they almost universally look for ways to improperly withhold the security deposit. Security deposit issues are the most common complaints we get. Probably the biggest thing landlords do is charge the tenant for new furnishings when the tenant leaves the apartment. It is important for you to know that even if the damage was your fault, the landlord is only entitled to recover the depreciated value of the damaged item from the security deposit. So if your dog peed on the carpet but the carpet was already 3 years old, the landlord can only recover a small percentage of the replacement cost. That is, if the life expectancy of the carpet was 5 years, he would only be entitled to recover 2/5 of the cost.
A landlord must return your security deposit within 14 days of your vacating your apartment. However, the 14 day period does not start until you send a notice to the landlord demanding its return. If the landlord then does not refund the security deposit or give you an itemized list of damages, he is liable for three times the wrongfully withheld amount of the security deposit.
As with all notices, there are specific procedures that must be followed to make the notice effective. Join ATU and we will help you prepare the proper notices to recover your security deposit. We are not attorneys and cannot formally represent you in court. But if the landlord does not comply, we will also help you prepare the lawsuit and walk you through the process of suing your landlord by yourself, without a lawyer.
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