How do I get my security deposit back?
August 31, 2005 10:24 AM   Subscribe

My landlords hasn't returned my deposit yet and it's been three months.

I think they're well-meaning but scatter-brained but I've called four or five times and it's beginning to stress me out. This is for an apt in CT, if it helps. Also, their usual practice is just to have the tenant not pay the last rent and just keep the security deposit.

Any advice on what to do?
posted by kensanway to Law & Government (17 answers total)
Best answer: As someone who works in the real estate/property management field, I believe their 'usual practice' is probably illegal. At least where I live, tenants are entitled to their security deposit plus interest (4% annually here), less any damages, within 45 days after move-out. Any damages must be documented by the landlord within a specified amount of time as well (I believe it's 30 days).

I'd send a certified letter -- signature required -- that documents the lease end date, the date you turned in your keys, and the fact that no damages were reported back by the landlords. If your lease agreement has a clause specifying this, all the better; quote that clause in your letter. Ask for your deposit in the form of a company check or certified check by a specific date (say, within 10 days of the receipt).

Also, you may want to start investigating landlord/tenant law in your state or county. You should be protected to some extent even if you have a poorly written lease.
posted by justonegirl at 10:29 AM on August 31, 2005

Here in BC Canada, they have to get it back to the tenant within 7 days.
posted by Kickstart70 at 10:31 AM on August 31, 2005

Best answer: In California, there is a civic code that spells out pretty clearly what the rules of returning security deposits are. The landlord needs to repay in 30 days (and there is a set interest rate in some cities), and all deductions must be justified in writing, usually with a receipt.

There is also an allowance to take the landlord to small claims court over deposits. The court also provides for up to $5k in punitive damages to keep the landord honest.

You may want to write them a letter, giving them one more chance to settle this, then tell them that you are going to file in small claims court to recover the deposit. I wouldn't make it too threatening, since what you really want is your money back.

I assume that there is s imilar civic (civil?) code in CT, but I didn't check on that.
posted by jonah at 10:33 AM on August 31, 2005

Response by poster: Also, this is more serious, but the roof leaked almost the whole time I lived there (well, when it was raining). I stupidly never got around to doing anything about it at the time, but is there anyway I can tell them I'm going to file a complaint, etc., as leverage to get my deposit back? Any other remedies?
posted by kensanway at 10:33 AM on August 31, 2005

Best answer: Justonegirl is describing the, errr, "law". The real world says "you're screwed". Possession is 9/10ths.

You have two angles - the first is to become their worst nightmare. Call every day. Then twice a day. Send some letters, certified, threatening legal action. Call three times per day. Call four times per day. Visit their offices, often.

The second angle is small claims court.
posted by jellicle at 10:35 AM on August 31, 2005

Best answer: Here's some detail on CT:
30 days, or within 15 days of receiving tenant's forwarding address, whichever is later.The landlord may be responsible for up to double the amount of the security deposit for failing to return the deposit.
And some info on the interest they are supposed to pay
posted by jonah at 10:35 AM on August 31, 2005

Best answer: "Rights and Responsibilities of Landlords and Tenants in Connecticut" (PDF), issued by the Connecticut Superior Court. See page 9 (will show up as page 11 in your Adobe reader) for security deposits.
posted by footnote at 10:37 AM on August 31, 2005

I'd check your lease agreement on that, kensanway. Our company has a clause requiring tenants to report any damages immediately, to minimize damage to the property. If you neglected to do so, you could be considered liable. Your point about the security deposit is valid, and stands on its own -- I wouldn't muck it up with sudden delayed complaints about the apartment.
posted by justonegirl at 10:37 AM on August 31, 2005

Have you only contacted them via phone? Do you have the wherewithal to contact them in person? From personal experience — from both ends of business transactions — I can tell you that an in-person request is a couple orders of magnitude more effective than a phone call. It's difficult to ignore somebody standing right in front of you.

If I were in your spot, I would make one final appearance, in person, requesting the deposit, and if that did not produce satisfactory results, I'd file complaints with the appropriate agencies.
posted by jdroth at 10:38 AM on August 31, 2005

In my experience a letter with a lawyer letterhead is all it takes to get people (even the scatter-brained) moving. It doesn't even have to be mean, just citing the law and asking for them to send the check to the law office. I have too many lawyer family members/friends to know how much such a service like this costs, sorry.
posted by geoff. at 10:49 AM on August 31, 2005

As we recently discovered from being in the same situation, laws and rules are one thing, but the small claims court judge's opinion is the only thing that really matters. We consulted with a hard-nosed tenant-law attorney, followed the rules to the freakin' letter, documented everything, had witnesses who'd been similarly screwed by the same landlord, and went to court. The landlord then filed a counter suit filled with all sorts of trumped-up damages, showed up with her child, and played the beleaguered small businesswoman being harrassed by yuppie tenants role to a T. We ended up getting 2/3rds our deposit back, no damages, no interest, no court costs, after 6 months of finger-to-the-bone work.

Seriously, court is a last resort. Take that route only if you've exhausted all other options.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:01 AM on August 31, 2005

In MA, this is like winning the lottery, and management companies are always good about returning the money. If it's not done within a month, you get triple the amount owed.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 11:02 AM on August 31, 2005

My one experience with something like this suggests that geoff is right. If you know any lawyers, ask one to make a phone call or write a letter. The phone call was all it took for me.

I doubt that you'll ever get any compensation for the leaky roof, unless you can show damages.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:12 AM on August 31, 2005

I do not agree with jellicle. You may be screwed in the short term but the law strongly favors the tenant. Additionally, small claims court can be a pain but particularly in a case like this where you KNOW they have physical assets it's possible to turn a judgement into an attachment.

All that said, obviously the best result is they just write you a check. If you can't go thump on their door it's time to start the paper trail in a way that makes it clear you're starting the paper trail. Put absolute dates in your written demands - if they really are just screwballs then "7 days from receipt" is a recipe for slack for them.
posted by phearlez at 11:36 AM on August 31, 2005

My mom just got her security deposit back, after a year. She moved from IA to PA, and the landlords told her to STFU, basically. They claimed that since she didn't get out of the apartment by 12pm (their deadline) they had the right to the whole $600. Iowa law dissagrees.

The last time she was visiting me, she stoped by the landlords place and told them that the law was on her side, and they mailed her a check a couple days after she got back to PA.
posted by delmoi at 11:48 AM on August 31, 2005

I just went through this. I sent a registered letter detailing what we were owed, our move-out dates, all pertinent details, and ended it with a request that we get our money back promptly so that we could avoid having to pursue it legally (check your e-mail, kensanway.)

The nice thing about doing this before calling in the lawyers/court system is that it shows that you have done your due dilligence in resolving the situation politely, while providing the all-important paper trail that you will need for court, should it come to that.

Anyway, we magically got a check in the mail exactly ten business days later, coincidentally the day I was planning to file.

Forget the repair, would have needed to bring that up while you were still a tenant there to get any compensation.
posted by desuetude at 12:16 PM on August 31, 2005

I sent a registered letter

In some cases, this isn't enough due diligence. ALWAYS send BOTH a copy via return-receipt-requested AND via regular mail. And state that you're doing as such in the letter itself. This avoid's the other party stating "I'm never home when the postman delivers the mail, so I can't sign the card" dodge--which will usually work in the other party's favor if you have a cantankerous judge on the case.

If the letter you sent via regular mail isn't returned to you by the Post Office, and you can show you also attempted delivery via another method, your ass is covered with adamantium.
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:38 PM on August 31, 2005 [2 favorites]

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