Security Deposit Drama
March 5, 2011 2:44 PM   Subscribe

Taking over the lease for one roommate in a four person household. I was originally told that I needed to pay first and last month's rent to move in: first month to the landlord and last month's to John, the roommate moving out. On moving day I was told that it was actually first and security. I would make the check for security out to John and then the landlord would give me back John's security deposit when I moved out. Confused and exhausted, I wrote a check.

While unpacking I found a lot of damage to the room that had previously been covered up by John's furniture and wall stuff. There was a broken window, tons of cracks and holes in the wall, and a broken blind that fell off the wall and cracked the screen of my ipod. None of the other roommates were aware that there was a deposit it all. One of them had only paid first month's rent upon moving in. They'd freely lived in the apartment. I was no longer comfortable with giving John his security deposit and wrote him an e-mail that day asking him not to cash the check until I had a chance to talk about this with the landlord.

So the more I think about this, the more uncomfortable I am with paying a security deposit at all. John never mentioned the damage to the room when he was showing me the place or when I was filling out paperwork. He initially told me that the check I was writing to him was for last month's rent and then at the last minute it became a deposit. He says that the landlord is aware of the damage and I shouldn't worry about getting my money back BUT if the landlord was aware of it, why was I never even given the option of having that stuff repaired before I moved in or at some point soon afterwards? I don't feel like paying $600 to ensure against damage to an already damaged roomed.

I'm going to talk to the landlord on Monday. At that point I think I'm going to tell him to work out John's security deposit with John and that I won't be paying a deposit unless the damage in my room is fixed. Is this reasonable? And by reasonable, I mean is there any sort of law or code to back me? Am I obligated to pay the deposit? What are my options here? I've already signed a lease and moved in.
posted by chichimimizu to Human Relations (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
What does your lease say about deposits? Your rental terms are governed by your lease, so that's where you should go to figure out what your obligations are. If you don't understand the lease or have questions about the law in your jurisdiction, I'd suggest contacting a tenant's rights organization in your jurisdiction. We can't give you legal advice, especially without reading your lease or knowing what laws might govern wherever it is you live.
posted by decathecting at 2:49 PM on March 5, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if you don't want John to cash your check, stop payment on it. If you think he might be dishonest, and it sounds like you do think that, you don't want to be relying on his goodwill in not cashing the check.
posted by decathecting at 2:50 PM on March 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

Stop payment on the check
posted by zia at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

is there any sort of law or code to back me?

Where is this apartment located? Laws are different everywhere.
posted by soelo at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2011

Response by poster: Wait! I haven't signed a lease. I signed the rental application and a letter stating that rent won't be raised in 2011.
posted by chichimimizu at 2:51 PM on March 5, 2011

Response by poster: And this is in Somerville, MA
posted by chichimimizu at 2:52 PM on March 5, 2011

You haven't signed the lease yet? Great!

- Don't worry about the law so much. In general, I think you are in the clear. Talk to the landlord about the damage on Monday!

- Stop payment on the check. Notify John via email after you've done so.

- Who is on the lease? This is 100% technically their problem and not yours until you actually sign a lease.

Remember to be polite. Good for you that you are handling this responsibly!
posted by jbenben at 2:55 PM on March 5, 2011

PS. while I've done and facilitated the roommate-to-roommate deposit exchange, I think it is 100% appropriate, LEGAL, and in this case preferable for John to get his deposit back from the landlord and NOT you.

- Is John still on the lease?
posted by jbenben at 2:59 PM on March 5, 2011

Take pictures of the damage right now, regardless of what avenue you pursue.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:07 PM on March 5, 2011 [5 favorites]

Among the reasons John should be getting his deposit directly from the landlord is that, in MA, landlords are required to return deposits plus interest. (Subsection 2a. IANAL but I am a Mass. landlord. Banks here offer a specific tenant account with godawful low interest rates for this exact purpose.)

This seems like a really sketchy way for (a) a landlord to avoid the interest requirement and (b) a tenant to trash the place and still get a deposit back. It's great for everybody but you.
posted by range at 7:05 PM on March 5, 2011

Send everything certified and make sure all e-mails have read-reciepts if possible. Document everything.
posted by GeniPalm at 9:12 AM on March 6, 2011

If you didnt sign a lease you should back out entirely. Dont live there. Dont let him cash your check.
posted by twblalock at 1:15 PM on March 6, 2011

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