Is it OK for a landlord to demand an additional deposit for moving?
August 7, 2013 11:29 AM   Subscribe

[NYC Renting] YANML: New management company/owner is demanding a special "move out" deposit that wasn't there when I moved in. There are very little details why this deposit is necessary and what criteria they use to decide whether or not to keep it. Is this right?

In NYC... (Manhattan)

I moved into my building a little over a year ago; in that time the owners of the building have changed once and the management company has changed thrice. There are new move in/move out procedures that include a Certificate of Insurance; which is fine. However, they are also demanding a special "moving deposit" in the form of a certified check or money order. No instructions are provided how I get this back, where it goes when I give them the check, and what criteria they will utilize to determine if something comes out of it. 1x my rent is currently in escrow for my regular security deposit. As I understand it, they need to provide more details surrounding this. And frankly, it seems unnecessary given my existing deposit. Any thoughts on this? As it stands now I'm going to show up on my scheduled move-out date with my insured movers and not provide them the check. Are they going to... kick me out if I don't pay?
posted by teabag to Law & Government (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
This is definitely a lawyer-up situation. NYC housing laws are way too complicated for an amateur to work.
posted by Etrigan at 11:31 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've heard of this before in buildings that are primarily condo or co-op. Theoretically your existing deposit covers damage to the apartment, this move out deposit covers damage to the elevator and common areas on your way out. Two different entities so two different deposits. I'd probably call the management company directly and ask some questions about when and how you'll get this back, who does the inspection and when, etc. They should also have a standard form agreement they can email.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:35 AM on August 7, 2013 [5 favorites]

Definitely lawyer. But I can't imagine you would be held responsible for paying an additional deposit amount not already specified in your lease. Unless they had you sign something that effectively amended your existing lease contract, the fact that there is "new management" doesn't nullify your existing contract, which both parties must comply with.

A quick phone call about the origin of this "deposit" and a half-hour consult with a housing attorney in NYC can probably clear this up for you.
posted by trivia genius at 11:37 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (Oh and take a bunch of pictures of any existing damage between your apartment and the exit now.)
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:37 AM on August 7, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I'd like to echo 2bucksplus. This is something I know for a fact exists (and based on my sample size seems pretty standard) in condo/co-op buildings, at least here in Chicago. It's generally small...I haven't seen one more than $350.

At least one of these was handled by giving the management a cashier's check for the deposit amount that was never actually cashed. It was returned to the person moving once they had moved out without incident.
posted by phunniemee at 11:41 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Move out fees are pretty standard in NYC buildings.
posted by dfriedman at 11:48 AM on August 7, 2013

What would they do if you don't pay the move-out deposit? I could see them not providing you with a good reference for future landlords (though presumably you have a new place to live already), but besides that...

On the other hand, an New York Times Q&A sugguests you may be responsible for it.
posted by zachlipton at 11:55 AM on August 7, 2013

What does your lease say about a move out deposit? If it doesn't require it then you don't have to pay it. My guess is the new LL charges a move out deposit and doesn't realize that you have an older lease which doesn't require it. The landlord cannot unilaterally require an additional deposit and the fact that other landlords charge these deposits doesn't mean that you have to pay one.

Note: There could be a statute or regulation that allows for this. I am not licensed in NY and you should ask a LL/Tenant attorney about it.

posted by unreasonable at 11:56 AM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

I've lived here for almost 11 years, 5 apartments, and have never heard of a move out fee. Lawyer up.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:09 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Some clarity: it is not a fee, it is a deposit. There is nothing in my current lease about this, it was imposed in a memo after the new owner assumed control of the building.

I spoke to a NYC attorney for his opinion (his expertise is helping people buy coops). He doesn't think it's unusual. No opinion on my legal standing without me paying for his time.

My hesitations are:

A) it's required to be a money order or cashiers check, indicating it will be cashed
B) there's no mention about how this money will be cashed or held (escrow or someone's pocket; NYC DOH requires disclosure of deposit holding accounts from what I can tell: which bank, etc.).
C) there's no mention of what this deposit will cover, especially since my movers will have a Certificate of Insurance on file.
posted by teabag at 12:27 PM on August 7, 2013

A memo from your landlord cannot obligate you to pay this deposit or change the terms of the lease. The new LL has to honor the terms of the existing leases and can't just change them because he or she wants the terms to be different going forward. Write a letter to the landlord (and keep a copy) stating that the lease doesn't require a move out deposit and you will not pay it unless and until they prove there is some basis for the charge.

Be prepared for the LL to take this from your security deposit. You might have to go to small claims court to get it back, so keep a copy of your lease and pictures of all damage or non-damage to the apartment and common areas.
posted by unreasonable at 12:36 PM on August 7, 2013 [2 favorites]

Either ignore the request or politely decline in a letter mentioning they are free to ask for anything in a new lease once your old lease expires. Or ask if they are breaking the current lease. A lease is a legal contract for all parties involved.

Page 9 & 10 of this document mention some other interesting things about security deposits like returning interest, etc:
posted by JJ86 at 12:37 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You have a lease, the lease says nothing about this fee, your lease also probably says it is the entire agreement and can only be modified in writing and signed by both parties. Doesn't sound like this "memo" fits the bill.

Also, what are they going to do, call the cops and physically prevent you from moving out? Make you stay there until you pay the fee and then evict you for nonpayment of rent? Your lease is ending, you're not renewing, the circumstances of the fee sound sketchy, just don't pay it.

FWIW, I have never encountered such a fee in a rental building in NYC in my many years here (and as the designated lawyer in my friend group, I have reviewed all of my friends' leases and would definitely have heard about one of their landlords pulling this kind of stunt). Maybe it happens in owner-occupied buildings, but we're not in that echelon.
posted by melissasaurus at 12:50 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Unreasonable echos my thoughts; I have signed leases where there was a move-out cleaning deposit (though the terms of how much and how I'd get back were specified) but those were in the lease at the time of signing.

From a legal standpoint I think you're well within your rights to tell them to pound sand (though as others say, tenant law is very localized and you should consult local resources). From a practical standpoint snickerdoodle may be correct - are you willing to be correct to the tune of completely fscking up your move?
posted by phearlez at 12:56 PM on August 7, 2013

They've requested a money order or cashier's check so that you don't write them a bad personal check and bounce. The idea is to be able to recover for any damages you cause to the elevator/common areas and, since you're moving out, the only way they can do that is to basically get and hold a cash equivalent.

This is pretty common in certain cities -- I wrote a similar check upon moving in and moving out of a condo building in Chicago -- but if you're uncomfortable with it, call the management company and get more information before automatically assuming they're out to screw you and take your money. Chances are you give them the check the day you move out and they send it back to you a few days later, uncashed.
posted by devinemissk at 1:00 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Again... it's not a fee.

Right I understand why they want a money order or cashiers check. The nature of the deposit and what it's for don't concern me. What concerns me is there's nothing mentioned about how the deposit will be stored or returned to me in the interim, as this policy feels tacked on. The doormen are cool with me; I'll just quietly move out and see if they say anything.

Thanks everyone for their input. I'll keep checking through the night if anyone has additional anecdotes.
posted by teabag at 1:35 PM on August 7, 2013

Response by poster: Also, since it's a cashier's check or money order, the idea of them "handing the check back to me" wouldn't really work, as both forms of payment are cash out of my account, and both require me to pay a fee to facilitate.
posted by teabag at 1:36 PM on August 7, 2013

I had this same issue recently arise in MA...received a memo days before my scheduled move, informing me of the move-out depost (partially refundable if no damage). It was not in my lease, and my actual landlord said he had no idea what it was about. I told the management company that as it wasn't in my lease, they could forget about it (politely. The email was polite).
I haven't heard any more about it, and used the amount they were asking for as a move-out fee to tip my movers, so I feel like my karma is clean.
posted by maryrussell at 1:48 PM on August 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Movers cost less than the deposit, for the record.
posted by teabag at 10:21 AM on August 8, 2013

Response by poster: And I emailed management raising my concerns... nothing back.
posted by teabag at 10:25 AM on August 8, 2013

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