How long after the end of a lease can the landlord return the security deposit in NYC?
May 3, 2007 10:07 AM   Subscribe

How long after the end of a lease can the landlord return the security deposit in NYC? The lease has no specific timeframe for returning the deposit. It just says "if [everything is OK] the landlord will return the security being held". The Office of the Attorney General ( says "at the end of the lease or within a reasonable time thereafter" but does not define what "reasonable" is. I guess I can contact the AG, but before spending hours listening to muzak, I wanted to know if anybody here had any information about this.
posted by sd to Law & Government (12 answers total)
Best answer: According to this, a "reasonable" amount of time is interpreted as 30-60 days.
posted by lalex at 10:19 AM on May 3, 2007

In many states if they don't return it or give you a list of damages within 30 days, they have to return the whole amount. Send the landlord a letter by certified mail asking for the deposit back. Be sure he has your forwarding address. Keep copies of everything.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:21 AM on May 3, 2007

Erm, you can pretty well plan on not receiving the security deposit. Ever. NYC landlords view people who pay the last month's rent (instead of using the deposit as the last month's rent) as suckers, new meat in the housing market, and what do you do with a sucker? Take his money, of course.

You can start hassling the landlord about it. Call every day, and, after a week or two, call twice a day. This might (25% chance) get you the deposit money. Probably (75% chance) the landlord will tell you that you have "damaged" the apartment and he's keeping the deposit to pay for the "damages". You will have to go to court to retrieve it, which will cost about as much as just eating the loss and is far from an assured success.

Welcome to NYC.
posted by jellicle at 10:22 AM on May 3, 2007

Not sure what you're basing that on Jellicle but that was never my experience with any of my NYC apartments. I always paid my final month's rent and always received my full deposit back. In fact, of all my friends in the city, never heard of one not getting his full deposit back. Maybe we were all just lucky.
posted by gfrobe at 10:26 AM on May 3, 2007

My experience with NYC security deposits is similar to gfrobe's.

Just make sure you document your communication with the landlord, and if you haven't moved yet take pictures of the apartment before you leave.
posted by lalex at 10:31 AM on May 3, 2007

Best answer: Well, I may be overly aggressive but I've had 5 apartments in NYC (some rent-stabilized, others not) and have successfully received my security deposit back within about 30 days from each landlord. Here is a summary of the steps I took:

1. I vacated the apartment timely and in clean condition without damage more than the normal wear and tear (in one exception my boyfriend had punched a hole in the door, and the security was reduced accordingly but still returned);
2. I immediately returned my set of keys to the landlord's office.
3. That day, I called and either spoke to someone or left a voicemail documenting that I'd returned the keys, requesting a call back to confirm (of course you never get the callback).
4. The next day, I commence sending letters that state something like "As you know, I vacated the above-referenced apartment timely and in good, orderly condition with all rent paid on X date as required by our lease agreement dated X. I subsequently delivered keys on x date and called you to confirm your receipt. I expect to promptly receive a return of the security deposit as called for by the lease, section x. Please call me immediately if your records or understanding are different than stated here."
5. I then call every 4-7 days, and re-send the letter (with a copy of the transmission showing the fax was successful on prior dates) about every 10 days.
6. After about 2 weeks, I start mentioning in my calls and letters that NYC calls for interest on security deposits in many situations.
7. After about 4 weeks, they usually call and tell me I can pick up the check.

The above-referenced method was most recently successful with my Park Slope landlord from a lease requiring me to pay rent up to and including November 2006. I moved into a new apartment on October 19. On October 21, I advised the landlord that I'd like to vacate the apartment and return keys immediately to terminate the lease, not paying November rent. Not only did they agree to let me not pay November rent, I used the full amount of the security deposit returned to me in plenty of time to buy my Christmas presents.

I realize the method is obnoxious, annoying, and time consuming, but for me nearly $2,500 (i.e. the November rent and the security deposit) was on the line so I was simply not going to give up. I paid my rent on time each month and there was no way my landlords were getting the windfall. One my landlords handed over the check concurrently with my returning the keys, but they were very very nice and that was unusual.
posted by bunnycup at 10:38 AM on May 3, 2007

P.S. I am not a lawyer giving legal advice, I'm just explaining what I've done that's gotten results fast. Also, before anyone gets their panties in a bunch, I would have paid November rent on that apartment - I owed it to them up to and until the moment where they willingly agreed not to ask for it (but to still give me the security).
posted by bunnycup at 10:43 AM on May 3, 2007

You didn't actually say this is happening to you. Just for clarification, is it? How long has it been since your lease ended. How long have you been trying to get back the deposit?

If your landlord is being a dick about it, like jellicle described, here is what I would do:

1) Collect documentation of the condition of the apartment before you moved out. Even if it is only from memory, at least put it to paper. Room by room, wall by wall. If there are any damages you know of that were caused by you. See if you can get a quote from someone to fix it. If you made such a list prior to moving in, find that too. Or, likewise, make one from memory.
2) Send a letter via certified mail asking for your deposit back, but not mentioning that they are required to comply or give you a list of damages.
3) Wait. And hope that they either return the deposit or that they don't send the deposit or the list. If they do neither, then,
4) Depending on how long after the lease ended, send a letter 30 to 60 days after the first one. 60 if the lease ended more recently, only 30 if it's already been a long time. This time ask for the deposit back and point out that they have not sent a list of damages and it has been a reasonable period of time, and therefore the must comply and send the deposit.
5) Hopefully they send the deposit. If they send the list instead, or worse, continue to ignore , contact the AG office. According to lalex's link, they will contact your landlord. Send them all the documentation you collected in step one, as well as documentation of the letters you sent, and any other communications with your landlord. If they sent you a list of damages, send your price quotes from step one to show that they are trying to collect too much.
6) If response is still not the desirable one, go to court.

If you think your landlord is not trying to take advantage of you, and perhaps just forgot, is generally the type to get things done eventually albeit later than one would hope, or whatever, then just sternly but politely ask for your deposit back. Maybe try phone first, then certified mail if you have too. Make sure you document everything though, in case things go awry. And collect the same information as you did in step 1 above.

On preview: my advice sort of assumes that it has already been at least a few weeks. It also assumes (more just for the sake of argument than anything else) that you may be in a situation like jellicle described. If you just recently moved out, or think your landlord is fairly trustworthy, as far as landlords go, or better yet, haven't even moved out yet, but suspect you may encounter trouble, bunnycup's advice sounds very good. If you're still in the place, make sure you clean up thoroughly when you leave. Also invite your landlord or apartment supervisor to visit just before you move out to confirm your itemized listing of the condition of your apartment (make sure it's itemized and well organized so it's not too much hassle for them). If they accept, it will make it very hard for them to claim excessive damage, unless it was in an obscure place. If they decline, it will give you some extra leverage too.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:02 AM on May 3, 2007

In NYC, I think it's pretty routine to tell your landlord to use your security deposit for last months rent and then not pay rent the last month. Of course, this is only applicable if you didn't damage the apartment.
posted by unformatt at 11:18 AM on May 3, 2007

umm its standard in nyc (legal that is) for the landlord to have both last month's rent and a security deposit. Both.
posted by alkupe at 1:52 PM on May 3, 2007

Umm no. That's simply not true - that may be what your Craigslist rental broker told you when they screwed you over and got you to pay last-month in advance, but it's neither standard nor, in many cases, legal.
posted by bunnycup at 3:05 PM on May 3, 2007

You should be aware, however, that landlords (collectively) keep track of "problem" tenants -- i.e., tenants who commence legal action over their security deposits. This list is apparently the black death if you want an apartment later, at least if it's a nice apartment.
posted by noble_rot at 3:39 PM on May 3, 2007

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