The Battle for Our Security Deposit, Part II


After Battle: Part I, I was really getting excited about the idea of going to court, but I guess my crystal clear letter got the job done.

I’m still out the $11 it cost to send two certified, return-receipt letters, but we’ll call it the cost of doing business.

Last week, we received a check for the balance of our deposit, and a form letter that simply stated, and I’m paraphrasing here, “an error occurred in our file.” We had a good chuckle at the dinner table over that one.

Since the whole thing is a bit anti-climactic, I decided to throw some lessons learned into today’s post. Consider this “How to Deal with Your Landlord 101.”

Lessons Learned

#1: Landlords. They come in all shapes and sizes–some are awesome, and some are terrible. Most of the time, you can tell which camp they’re in before you rent. If you have alarm bells ringing in your ears, think twice about signing the lease.

Hindsight tell-tales: Hands-off approach, not returning calls, missing appointments, maintenance issues with apartment, abbrieviated lease agreement, low occupancy rate, high turnover, and more.

#2: The Law. The law can be your best friend, but only if you’re aware of it. In this case, the 30-day limit window on deposit claims set us free, but had we not responded within 15 days, that same window would have been void and the law would have favored the landlord.

We also had to be careful about the amount of notice we gave, particularly since our landlord also wanted us to sign a new, revised lease at the same time–the required notice periods ended up overlapping.

The lessons here is–research every line of tenant law you can for your state, and cross-check it with your lease (which can override many of those same laws). Then act accordingly, and with complete confidence. Cite the applicable statutes to show people that you know your rights.

#3: In Writing. Your landlord’s loosey-goosey attitude might be seen as “friendly,” but it will hurt your chances of winning in court if move-out issues arise. Get the condition of the apartment in writing at move-in, and take pictures of everything that’s wrong for your files.

If something happens during your tenancy that affects the unit, put it in a letter and send it off. It’s possible to lose a lot of legal standing by simply not “giving the opportunity” for your landlord to fix the problem.

#4: Who’s the Boss? If your property features a “manager” that’s one step removed from the landlord, it would be a good idea to clarify whether correspondence sent to the manager has the same legal effect as if it was sent to the landlord.

Don’t ask me, I’m not a lawyer–I sent copies to both, just in case.

Additional Resources

If you’re involved in a tenant dispute, this may be helpful:

(Photo credit)

2 thoughts on “The Battle for Our Security Deposit, Part II

  1. It’s also a great idea to take photos/video of any issues that you discover upon move-in and while you live there. Also note any requests to have any of those issues fixed. Then a move-out video and photos to seal the deal and you have irrefutable evidence to get your deposit back!

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