Either he spontaneously combusted or has become allergic to money.
September 20, 2010 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I have my former roommate's security deposit. I don't know his new address. How do I get him the money slash how long do I have to keep trying to contact him before I'm allowed to give up and keep it for myself?

The entire security deposit was in my name. I paid the security deposit directly to the landlord two years prior when I moved in and signed the lease with a previous roommate. Previous roommate paid me her half. When previous roommate moved out and the new guy moved in, the new guy paid his half to the previous roommate. So, half was "mine" and half was "his", but it was all mine in the eyes of the landlord.

OK, so fast forward a very uncomfortable year (roommate and I had a lot of problems: he was messy and irresponsible, I was never around) and we both moved out August 31. Knowing that I would be getting the full deposit from the landlord (and knowing I had no intentions of hanging out with him post-move out), I started asking him at the beginning of August for his forwarding address. He didn't know his plans yet, but said he'd give me his new address when he had one.

So far, so good. At the end of the month, after he has made solid plans, I start asking him again. He keeps saying, "well, I don't remember the exact address, but I'll email it to you." OK, fine. I email him once prior to officially moving out, reminding him that I'll eventually need his address. No response. I ask him a few more times in person.

On the day when I am physically moving out (arms full of stuff, walking down stairs) he says to me, "oh, let me give you my address, it's "55-- or, maybe 56-- 03? 2? [Street Name] St." I say, "no, don't tell me right now, there is NO way I'm going to remember that, can you write it down?" And he says, "send me an email reminding me to email it to you." I emailed him that night, and got no response.

Since then I have emailed him ten times (most in the last week, since I got the security deposit from the landlord last Tuesday), called him three times (his phone goes straight to voicemail), and texted him. I asked the landlord and she has no idea what his forwarding address is. (As far as she is concerned, her job is done; he was a pain in the ass tenant for her, so I'm sure she is glad to be rid of him.)

This is a large amount of money (over $700), so I am really surprised that I haven't heard ANYTHING from him at all, despite how flaky and irresponsible he is.


My questions:

1) What other paths can I take to get in contact with him? I don't have contact information for anyone in his family. A mutual friend of ours hasn't heard from him in a while. I only have his email address and his phone number, neither of which have been successful so far. I know the neighborhood he's living in now, and could narrow it down to within maybe a square mile, but absolutely nothing else. He has my email address (actually a couple), my phone number, my new address, our landlord's contact info, and contact info for my boyfriend and a number of my friends, so he could get in touch with me in a number of ways at any time.

2) I intend to keep trying to contact him hardcore (at least one attempt per day) for the next month. How long do I have to keep trying? If I don't ever hear from him, could he potentially call me on this a year from now, five years from now demanding his money? Is there a statute of limitations on having a deadbeat roommate? Would this still be considered a security deposit with tenants or is it now basically a debt between friends?

What do you all suggest I do next?

This is in Chicago. (Illinois) (USA) (Planet Earth, completely unbeknownst to the former roommate, apparently.)
posted by phunniemee to Work & Money (35 answers total)
 
could you try mailing it to him at your present address? If he's filed a change of address form with the post office, it might pick it up and get it to him, and if it doesn't, it'll just go directly back to you...
posted by Lucinda at 9:17 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Have you been telling him in the emails that you have money for him, or just asking him for his address and leaving it at that?
posted by amro at 9:17 AM on September 20, 2010


Throw the money in a high interest (ha!) savings account. Let it ride and don't touch it. Consider it yours when you retire.
posted by 2bucksplus at 9:21 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


What? Every day for a month? Is there some reason you think next week's email will reach him when this week's hasn't, or that he'll care next week when he clearly doesn't this week?

Making this your full time job is just ridiculous, one several levels. Don't do that.

A debt is a debt whether it's a pain in your arse or not. You owe him this money, you acknowledge you owe him this money, and he is under no obligation to collect it from you on the schedule most convenient to you. He is however under an obligation to collect it within the statute of limitations in your state, which I believe can range from six years to infinity. Note that every time you contact him you are acknowledging the debt and re-starting the clock.

So yes, yes you do need to hold on to that money, potentially for years.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:21 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


IANAL, I don't think you ever legally stop owing the money. But if you've made reasonable attempts to make contact (and you already have), you can stop trying without any repercussions.

I second the idea of putting it into a savings account and forgetting about it for the time being.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:23 AM on September 20, 2010


I would send him an email, a snail mail letter and a voice mail. All three would say "I have your security deposit and would like to give it to you. I need you to contact me with either your mailing address or to arrange an in-person passing of the funds. I will hold onto your money until XX/XX/XXXX date. If I do not hear from you by that date, I will assume the funds are mine to do with as I choose."

I would pick a date 3 or 4 weeks in the future. I would not try contacting him again. The letter should be mailed to your old address and let it forward to him.

Good luck.
posted by onhazier at 9:24 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would send him an email, a snail mail letter and a voice mail. (onhazier)

How can she send him a letter if she doesn't have his address?
posted by ocherdraco at 9:25 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I only have his email address and his phone number, neither of which have been successful so far.

Facebook?

I'd suggest you just sit on the cash until you hear from him. It's only been about 3 weeks since you moved out, far too early to start thinking "Oh this could be mine!"
posted by jerseygirl at 9:25 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


My emails have read (in a slightly different way each time, but containing all of this information):

Subject: Need address for security deposit

Dear [Roommate]

[Landlady] sent the security deposit. I need to get your portion [$AMOUNT] to you. Please send me your new address.

Thanks,
phunniemee


Recently I have been adding "if there is some sort of problem, just let me know and we can figure out another way to get it to you."


I thought about sending the check to the old address, but I'm wary of doing that. First of all, I have a sneaking suspicion that he didn't change his address with the USPS. Second, mail service is lame in my old neighborhood. I always used to get mail for previous tenants when I lived there. I'd write "return to sender new address unknown" or "no longer resides here" on the front and put them back in the mailbox or propped on top of the mailbox (where all the other tenants put the misdirected mail), and the next day I'd come down to find it had been thrown on the ground. I don't really want that to happen with a personal check.

Is there a way to find out if a person has changed their address with the post office?
posted by phunniemee at 9:28 AM on September 20, 2010


A letter can be send to their old address as mentioned in both my post and one earlier in the thread. If he's set up a forwarding order on his mail, then the letter will be forwarded.
posted by onhazier at 9:28 AM on September 20, 2010


Given that you seem to have made sincere attempts I would send a certified letter (return receipt requested) to him at the present address and see if it is forwarded. In the letter I would state that he has thirty days to provide you his address (in writing) so you can forward his share of the rental deposit and if he fails to do that you will keep the deposit. If the letter is returned to you unopened or he fails to respond give your self a treat and put the balance in a retirement account (or start one) for your self.
posted by rmhsinc at 9:29 AM on September 20, 2010


Is it possible he doesn't want you to know his whereabouts?

You could always have him come and collect it in person. Leave messages/emails to that effect. Once you do, the ball's in his court. Hang onto the money for a few months, maybe as much as a year. If he doesn't collect, just shrug and keep it.

Try texting. I find it often gets past the voicemail pretty effectively. Also: Is he on Facebook?

Would this still be considered a security deposit with tenants or is it now basically a debt between friends?

It was always just a debt between friends. To wit: The entire security deposit was in my name.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:31 AM on September 20, 2010


Personally, I wouldn't try to contact him again. You've done enough already. He knows how to contact you and presumably that you have money for him.

The flip side of that is that I would hang onto the money basically indefinitely until I hear from him. Legally, you may be required to hand it over to the state as unclaimed property, so I wouldn't rely on any technicalities regarding statutes of limitations, which won't be for several years anyway.

I will hold onto your money until XX/XX/XXXX date. If I do not hear from you by that date, I will assume the funds are mine to do with as I choose.

That definitely is not cool, legally or morally. This isn't a piece of furniture cluttering up your living room. It's easy to keep money on someone else's behalf, and their failure to collect does not justify greedily appropriating it for yourself.
posted by grouse at 9:32 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


This website, at least, says that the written contract deadline in Illinois is ten years. I have no idea if what you owe constitutes a written agreement, but thought I'd mention it.

Also, I would send one more email. In the subject, write, "I have your half of the deposit. Give me your address and I'll mail you a check." (in case he isn't opening things because he is anxious about emails from you, for whatever reason)

Ditto in the body, include all your current contact details, and forget about it. It is his obligation to contact you.
posted by arnicae at 9:32 AM on September 20, 2010


If it were me, I'd just paypal it to the e-mail address you have. If it goes unclaimed after a certain lapse of time, it will revert back to your account.
posted by drlith at 9:32 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Being messy & irresponsible does not entitle you to his security deposit. Don't be that guy. I know, he sucked as a roommate, but you don't get combat pay.

You still had an agreement that that money was his half of the security deposit. it wasn't a gift or a loan. Don't try to welsh out of it.

I am all for the paypal option.
posted by micawber at 9:45 AM on September 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


In your situation, I might look into landlord-tenant law as a rough guideline. For instance, the law may specify that a tenant has to notify the landlord of a new address within X amount of time to receive the security deposit back; that might serve as a rule of thumb for you in terms of how long to hang onto it while waiting for him to be in touch. Landlords usually have 30 days to return it, and I don't know what their obligations are if they have no means to do so, but that might help guide you.

Also, I'd follow the advice above to send one last message every way you can think of, including as much of your contact info as possible (maybe there's some crazy reason he can't send e-mail but he would love to send you his new address in the mail or call you with it), with a deadline in it. This is a personal debt between friends, and my inclination would be to treat it like the furniture your ex-lover stored in your basement: clear communication, and a deadline after which you get to dispose of it. Yeah, it's a little tricker because it's cash money, but when I think back to all my old housemate situations with all those various informal agreements, I can't imagine anybody holding onto somebody else's share of the security deposit for the next 30 years.
posted by not that girl at 9:53 AM on September 20, 2010


Stop contacting him (you've been more than generous with your time).

Don't spend the money (it's not yours to be generous with).

Wait for reply (again, you've done more than enough).
posted by astrochimp at 10:00 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would put the money into some kind of savings vehicle that earns steady interest like a CD as long as you can still withdraw the money at any point and it is not mixed with other money. You keep the interest, he gets his $700 back if he ever gets his act together to ask for it, assuming he does not do so very soon and there is no 'early penalty' attached to the account.
posted by slow graffiti at 10:00 AM on September 20, 2010


Is there any chance he's out of town? Maybe on vacation overseas? Unable to get to his phone or e-mail? Completely disconnected?

I can think of plenty of reasons someone might disconnect for a few weeks. Hold on to it, try again once a week for a while, seeing if you can get a hold of him. Otherwise, put it in a high(ish) interest savings account and hold on to it.
posted by SNWidget at 10:01 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


If it were me, I would put the money in a savings account for 6 months. If I didn't hear from him by then, I would keep it. If you're really worried, you may want to contact a legal aid society for free advice as to what your legal responsibilities are in this case, but I personally would consider it due diligence to give him a few months to get in touch with me.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:12 AM on September 20, 2010


Did he pay his share of the rent to you by check? If so, you can probably use the routing number to transfer the money to his account - I'm not sure about the mechanics, but you could ask his bank. And they might have other suggestions, as well.
posted by punchtothehead at 10:31 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd bet he's gone on vacation, or some such.

Seriously, open a no-fee account with the money and leave it be for a month or two. It's not like he doesn't know how to contact you.
posted by endless_forms at 10:33 AM on September 20, 2010


Can you contact the old landlord? Maybe the roommate gave the forwarding address to them instead, thinking that they would pass it on to you, or that they would send the security deposit.
posted by spinifex23 at 10:33 AM on September 20, 2010


In my state, I have to give my landlord my forwarding address in order to get my deposit back. It's in the law.

Did he sign anything? Did you sign anything? Was he your subletter? Go to Legal Aid, or, if you are a student at a university with a law school, your school's landlord/tenant services.

I would not deposit the funds in a separate account or email him anymore until talking with a lawyer or getting his physical address from him. Stop asking random friends for the address, by the way.
posted by SMPA at 10:34 AM on September 20, 2010


Roommate has dropped the ball on getting the deposit from you. A debt like this is definitely not forever - the other party has to provide some way of you repaying, otherwise you would have to keep this on the books until the heat death of the universe, waiting patiently for them to finally show up.

No. Give them a deadline of, say, 30 or 90 days. Suggest that you can paypal or send them a check. And if they haven't gotten back to you by the deadline, then it's over.
posted by zippy at 10:43 AM on September 20, 2010


Is there a way to find out if a person has changed their address with the post office?

This page explains "Ancillary service endorsements allow the sender to obtain on request (provided the appropriate endorsement is used) the addressee's new (forwarding) address (if the addressee filed a Change-of-Address Order with the Postal Service) or the reason for nondelivery."

What I think that means in non-postal words is that if you write "Address Service Requested" on a letter you send to his old address, the PO will tell you if he has changed his address with them. I'd take the letter to a PO in person and ask the person behind the counter to confirm and be aware of any possible fees. Then you could send him a letter and if that goes okay/provide you with a new address, you could send the check or money order.
posted by soelo at 10:51 AM on September 20, 2010


A debt like this is definitely not forever

It's a hell of a lot longer than 90 days though.

otherwise you would have to keep this on the books until the heat death of the universe, waiting patiently for them to finally show up.

If keeping the money on your books is a big burden, I'm sure the Illinois State Treasurer would be happy to hold them for the owner instead.
posted by grouse at 11:04 AM on September 20, 2010


Stop asking random friends for the address, by the way.
I'm not sure where you got that.

Being messy & irresponsible does not entitle you to his security deposit.
Yes, thank you; hence my asking the question.

I have no intention of keeping the money. I know it's not mine. One of my goals in asking the question was to get an idea of how long is too long to spend chasing this guy down. My biggest concern is that I don't hear from him and happily go on about my life...and then several years down the line when I'm using a new phone number and a different primary email address, he wants to collect but suddenly I'm the one at fault for not being available and I'm being sued or something ridiculous. (Not saying that will happen, just thinking worst case scenario here.)


It is not formally in writing anywhere that half of the security deposit is his. It was a pain in the ass getting him to pay his half of the deposit to the previous roommate in the first place (she didn't bother to collect, he didn't bother to pay; it was my understanding that it had been handled until four months later when suddenly I get a call from my landlady saying previous roommate has been demanding payment from her), so there is an email trail to that effect.

Both of our names were on the lease and he only ever paid his rent to the landlady, not to me. Again, the landlady does not have his new contact information. I have asked her to get the address from him/ask him to contact me ASAP if she hears from him at all.

He is not active on facebook.

I will not participate in paypal (personal policy) unless he contacts me and tells me that it is his only option for accepting payment. I'm not going to just send money out into paypal's interest-collecting ether.

I have considered that he is on vacation. It's not like I've got a bathtub filled with the money that I intend to set fire to if I don't hear from him in a couple days. I'm thinking of my long-term liability here.

I intend to send one more email to him, along the lines of "contact me at any time, but I am done" with all of the relevant details included. I'm going to go to the post office as per soelo's suggestion and ask mutal contacts to please tell him to call me if they hear from him. And after that, I will officially consider the ball to be in his court.
posted by phunniemee at 11:08 AM on September 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wasn't this the roommate that was so filthy, he literally drove you from your own home from the stench of his hoarding? Things got so bad that you practically lived elsewhere for the better part of your tenancy? In my mind, you get to keep that money forever, friend! That's the least he owes you... maybe his non-response is his way of saying "Sorry; now we're even."

Seriously though, I think you've done all that can be reasonably expected trying to contact him. Put the money in the bank for 90 days and wait for him to contact you. I don't think you're required to send it in to your state's Unclaimed Property Division, since you aren't technically a business entity. (Check with a lawyer though.)
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:16 AM on September 20, 2010


Wasn't this the roommate that was so filthy, he literally drove you from your own home from the stench of his hoarding?
Man, you have good recall. Yes, it's the same guy. He has been a total nightmare.

posted by phunniemee at 11:27 AM on September 20, 2010


nth the stick in in a separate savings and forget about it. If you are an organized person I'd also print your emails that showed you tried to contact him and file them somewhere that you'll remember. IANAL, but I doubt you'd ever be hauled to small claims court/sued over what is basically a loan made without proof. And as long as you have the funds tucked away somewhere and can show an attempt to contact I would hazard a guess you are pretty safe.

The only thing I would add is that some States do not allow you to keep the interest in situations where you are holding a deposit, it would go to the rightful owner of the principal. You would pay any taxes on the interest income from the interest itself. Check local tax code.
posted by edgeways at 11:37 AM on September 20, 2010


Mostly concurring with the above.

Options:
1. Put it in an envelope along with a note indicating the date, and seal it. Put it a filing cabinet or whatever and forget about it. If he shows up, hand it over.

2. Put it into some savings account and forget about it. If he shows up, close the account and give him everything.

Whatever you do, don't spend it.
posted by DWRoelands at 11:53 AM on September 20, 2010


Me being me, I wouldn't put it in a savings account, if you can find a CD that returns substantially more.

First, I would wait two months, to see if he's just on vacation or something. Then, if I hadn't had a response, I'd throw the $700 in a CD, to get the maximum return I could, even though it locked up the money. Then, once a year, I'd send him the same note: "I still have your $700 sitting in an envelope, and you should give me your address so I can mail it to you."

As the years go on, the money will grow. Meanwhile, "his" money is in a theoretical "envelope", earning nothing. When he finally contacts you, hand him $700 and be on your way. Meanwhile, there was $700 you wouldn't have otherwise had, earning money for you.

Mind you, the morally correct thing to do is put it in a savings account so it accrues a little bit of interest, but you're not his financial planner and you're not legally obligated to do so. Might as well make a little money off of his laziness.
posted by davejay at 12:21 PM on September 20, 2010


Oh, in case it isn't clear: when he finally comes out of the woodwork for his money, don't give him the money from the CD; just given him $700 out of your checking/savings account. In short, leverage his laziness and your need to hold this money for now as a means to put that money to work for you.
posted by davejay at 12:23 PM on September 20, 2010


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