Are we entitled to our security deposit?
January 19, 2010 7:38 AM   Subscribe

How do I get my security deposit back? We bought our first home and moved out of our apartment 6 months in to a 12 month lease and found someone to take over our apartment.

We signed a 1 year lease for an apartment that was supposed to run May 1 2009 to April 30 2010, but we decided that we wanted to buy a house to take advantage of the down market, low interest rates, and the government stimulus package. We talked to our landlord, and we were instructed that we would need to either contiune paying our lease until the end of the term, or find another person to take over our lease/sign a new lease with them. So, luckily, I had a friend who was looking for a place and got him a rental application which he filled out and sent in to the landlord. They approved him and he paid his security deposit and moved in after we had moved out and cleaned the place. Our lease ended on Dec. 31st, and we have not heard from our landlord yet regarding our security deposit and they will not return our phone calls. I believe in Wisconsin they have 21 days to return a security deposit in full, or if there are any decutions with a detailed list of claimed damages. What recourse do we have if they do not return our security deposit by 21 days? Are we entitled to the deposit since we did do the work to find someone to take over the lease?
posted by ganzhimself to Law & Government (14 answers total)
 
It depends on the details of your contract, but it sounds like you may have to wait until 21 days past April 30th.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:48 AM on January 19, 2010


Since your replacement paid a security deposit, that means the landlord now has two complete security deposits. You're entitled to yours back. While I'm not anybody's lawyer, and I'm not familiar with Wisconsin, in general the next step after phone calls are ignored is to send a certified letter informing them that you want your money (minus itemized detailed damages).
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:51 AM on January 19, 2010


I was doing some more research and found this information, which I believe then states that I should receive my security deposit 21 days after we left the premesis.

When must my landlord return my deposit?
The landlord has 21 days after the end of your lease to send you either the full security deposit or an itemized list of deductions (ATCP 134.06(2)(a)).

What if I move out early?
If you move out before the lease is over, return the keys to the landlord and write a letter stating which day you are moving. Give one copy to the landlord and keep one for yourself. The landlord will have to return the security deposit within 21 days after you "surrender the premises." You must notify the landlord in writing if you move out early, otherwise you will have to wait until the lease is over to get your security deposit back (ATCP 134.06(2)(b)).
Wisconsin Tenant Resource Center
posted by ganzhimself at 8:06 AM on January 19, 2010


Note the "You must notify the landlord in writing if you move out early".

Before you go all certified mail on the guy (which can be seen as a bit aggressive), I would just try giving him a call: "Hi, I hope you're doing well. I just wanted to make sure you had our address for our security deposit. I believe [my friend] paid one for you, so I just wanted to make sure we were on the same page."

If he's a dick, THEN you get all ATCP 134.06(2)(b) on his ass.
posted by CharlesV42 at 8:25 AM on January 19, 2010


You should call the Wisconsin Tenant Resource Center. They will be more helpful to you than people on the internet who live in other states. They can tell you whether it's your job to send a certified letter or whether they step in to help with the collection.

Here in NYC, the AG office would step in at this juncture to help (although our window is longer--60 days). In other jurisdictions, you'd have to contact the landlord via certified mail before an advocacy organization would step in. Since you found such fantastic information on the WTRC site, you should call them and ask at what point they get involved.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:29 AM on January 19, 2010


Since your replacement paid a security deposit, that means the landlord now has two complete security deposits. You're entitled to yours back. While I'm not anybody's lawyer, and I'm not familiar with Wisconsin, in general the next step after phone calls are ignored is to send a certified letter informing them that you want your money (minus itemized detailed damages).

This is exactly what I was going to say. If you don't have a check in your hand on the 21st, send a certified letter requesting payment of deposit in full. When I did this, I gave my landlord seven days "lest I be forced to resolve this through legal means" or likewise reference to small claims court. (I magically got my long-delayed deposit exactly seven days later.)

Get the letter ready now, so that you can drop it on Thursday. And then get the small claims court forms ready to go, so that you can drop them seven days later if needed.

Are we entitled to the deposit since we did do the work to find someone to take over the lease?

This has nothing to do with it. I'll bet that your lease has the standard boilerplate language defining your security deposit as $ in case of damages to the apartment while you lived there. Your friend taking over the lease is a separate matter. You no longer live there, he's got his own lease with his own deposit, they have to give you yours back.
posted by desuetude at 8:42 AM on January 19, 2010


I'm going to give the landlord the full 21 days before I go ahead and do anything. At that point I will be contacting the WTRC to see what I can do in this situation. I was hoping that someone here had a similar experience here in Wisconsin. My main concern is that I know a couple who moved out of an apartment (same situation, they bought a house and moved out before their lease was over) in the same complex and they received their security deposit back and the check bounced. When we notified them of moving out we told them we would like our security deposit to be returned as a certified check so as to avoid that situation... Anyway, getting off topic, that could be an entirely different discussion.
posted by ganzhimself at 8:42 AM on January 19, 2010


Too late for this in your case but for others in this situation, it often works better for the new tenant to give their security deposit to you instead of the landlord ...even if they're putting their name on the lease. If the new lease has wording that requires a new security deposit, you can have them ignore it, cross it out or just attach a note before sending in the signed copy.

If you just do this quickly and have the person move in, without signaling that it's even an issue, I think very few landlords will really make a fuss over it. They still have one security deposit, and now the ball's in their court to be proactive if they have a problem with it -- and how much effort is it really worth to have a second security deposit for a few months? The deposits often have to be held in escrow accounts so they wouldn't even be earning interest on them. And if you've really trashed the place that badly that one security deposit wouldn't cover it, you probably couldn't have found another tenant to move in at your existing rent, right?
posted by pete_22 at 9:25 AM on January 19, 2010


ask a state of wisconsin legal resource.

in some other states (like Florida), signing a contract to purchase a home is grounds to legally terminate a lease, in which case you would be entitled to a refund of your security deposit provided you return the rental in the condition you received it. you would not even need to find another renter.

please check with a lawyer or housing rights expert.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:55 AM on January 19, 2010




ask a state of wisconsin legal resource.

in some other states (like Florida), signing a contract to purchase a home is grounds to legally terminate a lease, in which case you would be entitled to a refund of your security deposit provided you return the rental in the condition you received it. you would not even need to find another renter.

please check with a lawyer or housing rights expert.


In Wisconsin this is not the case. I did check into that on the Wisconsin Tenant Resource Center's website.

Reasons To Break Your Lease
Contrary to popular belief, there are no provisions in Wisconsin or local laws that permit tenants to break a lease if they buy a house or get a job transfer. It may, however, be possible to negotiate with the landlord to include this type of provision in the original lease agreement.


Wisconsin Tenant Resource Center
posted by ganzhimself at 11:40 AM on January 19, 2010


Here's an interesting development. I tried calling both phone numbers I had for our landlord and both are saying they've been disconnected... This is getting interesting. I'm wondering what's going on and if I'm even going to be able to find them if I need to go to court, as we don't have a physical address for them, just a PO Box we sent our rent to every month.
posted by ganzhimself at 12:30 PM on January 19, 2010


Send your letter ASAP, even if it's just to the PO Box. Google the guy and see if you can find a residence. Sooner you get the papertrail going, the better.
posted by desuetude at 5:16 PM on January 19, 2010


Oh, and send a copy of the letter to the old apartment, too. As owner, he can be expected to receive mail there as well.
posted by desuetude at 5:16 PM on January 19, 2010


The problems we've been having are because the complex is under different management now... Don't know the specifics, but we got the new info last night from my buddy who is now living in our old apartment. Going to give them a few days to get their stuff in order but it sounded like they just didn't know it hadn't been taken care of by the previous management yet.
posted by ganzhimself at 7:47 AM on January 20, 2010


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