Apt rental agency refuses to give back $2000.00 deposit.
April 25, 2007 5:16 PM   Subscribe

I went through a rental agency for an apartment last fall. I found one but it had some flaws (dirty, needed painting and some repairs) and the rental agent assured me that the owner was aware of the problems and would "definitely" have the needed work done PRIOR to my moving in. On the basis of that promise I plunked down $2000.00 for the first month's rent and signed the agreement. A few days later the landlord called me and said the work would not be done before I moved in but "sometime" afterwards. I smelled a rat and went back to the agent and asked for my money back. The agency wouldn't give it back as they said it was non-refundable. Do I have anything to go on to pursue this? Thanks.
posted by Tullyogallaghan to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
IAAL, but I AM NOT YOUR LAWYER, and this is not legal advice.

Biggest question: Did you sign anything? If so, read what it says with a fine-toothed comb.

If not, you and the rental agency had an oral agreement, and on that basis, you gave your money. Once they didn't hold up their side of the bargain, they breached the contract, and you're entitled to your money back. Tell them that, first politely. Then threaten to sue and see if that wakes them up. Small claims court is easy.

Note that you might lose, but your story sounds sympathetic.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 5:25 PM on April 25, 2007

You have a lot to go on to pursue it, but do your homework first!
posted by rhizome at 5:27 PM on April 25, 2007

IANAL, but a lifelong renter and longtime property manager. Renters rights vary tremendously by jurisdiction, both in terms of what's stated in law and how much of those promised rights actually get supported by the local courts. Most landlords and management companies are very aware of whether their particular area tilts toward their rights or yours. You need to call around to a local tenants' right service or legal aid office to know whether you've got a snowball's chance in hell of seeing that money again. In California, for instance, there's supposed to be no such thing as a nonrefundable deposit. But that's only meaningful if you get a small claims judge who agrees that the money was a deposit and not, say, rent.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:54 PM on April 25, 2007

No chance you paid by credit card? If so, just do a charge back and let them do the leg work of proving their claim, rather than making you prove yours.
posted by tiamat at 6:17 PM on April 25, 2007

Even if the signed contract says "no refunds of any money for any reason whatsoever," a timeframe of "sometime" in response to a broken promise that was given in order to seal the deal does not seem to be a reasonable level of consideration.
posted by rhizome at 6:42 PM on April 25, 2007

Do not take legal advice from people on the internet, instead consider the following.

Read. Yes, you'll have to dig through many, many boring and sometimes hard to understand documents. Take notes, re-read things that seem to not make sense, because it can save your ass.

Or get a lawyer.

Either way, gather dates, names, anything else you may have, and call your local bar association and get a referral. It's cheap, but have a list of questions ready to ask, and they help with clarification. Reading will go a lot further here, because my experience with lawyers is that they love to rant. Give them fuel and they'll keep going until your head explodes.

The minute you say lawyer to your landlord, they'll either cave, or stop returning your phone calls.

From here, it's registered letters until you give up or go to court.

If it were my 2k, that's what I would do.

I also wouldn't take legal advice from people on the internet.
posted by onedarkride at 6:48 PM on April 25, 2007

Check out if the rental agency is licensed by any government department. In my area, many rental companies also work in real estate and the agents are licensed as such. Real estate agents do not generally want to face complaints to their licensing boards.
posted by shinynewnick at 7:04 PM on April 25, 2007

Of course don't take legal advice from people from the internet. Except when you ask for it. Oh, and when you already know that the people helping aren't your lawyer.
posted by rhizome at 7:52 PM on April 25, 2007

Your first step is to google "tenant+law+name of your state". Look for a page hosted by a government agency, or a university, that explains the rights of tenants and landlords in your state.

(In the future, your best bet is to be sure that clauses like "landlord will repair x, y, and z before tenant moves in" are written in to the lease document that you sign. If they won't agree to it in writing, you know they are trying to leave their options open to jerk you around.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:42 PM on April 25, 2007

There are actually lawyers who work from home consulting on just these sorts of issues. "rent+lawyer+california" on "I'm feeling lucky" brings up one of this businesses.
Only if you feel like going to the next step in terms of taking legal advice that you find on the internet.
posted by lilithim at 11:33 PM on April 25, 2007

You signed the agreement, so you're probably SOL. This is unfortunately very common - renters entering into rental agreements after receiving an oral commitment to make changes to the property, without realizing that the agreement they just signed explicitly says that oral agreements are non-binding, and any changes to the agreement MUST be written and signed off on by both parties (no court wants to sort out a he-said, she-said situation). Maybe it varies by state, but it's 99% likely your oral agreement is worthless.

Sadly you cannot take a lot of rental agents/landlords at their word today. If you're signing over $2000 based on a oral promise, next time make damn sure those terms are included in the written agreement. Right now your options are probably to follow through with the agreement as-is, or lose $2000.

Call your local tenant's rights organization for verification though.
posted by chundo at 7:46 AM on April 26, 2007

« Older Why can't I just copy/paste?   |   What is the best Address-Book-like app for a Mac? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.