Can I get a deposit for an apartment back if I never signed a lease?

I found an apartment I planned on renting. There was no application fee. I filled out the application and was accepted. I was told that the deposit was $250. I paid it and that held the apartment that I was supposed to move into on the 1st of next month. It is now the 18th and I decided that I do not want to move to this community. Can I get my deposit back? What recourse do I have?

Asked on August 18, 2011 Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You probably cannot get the deposit back, on two grounds:

1) If there was no written lease, it still may be the case that you leased the apartment under an oral or verbal lease. An oral lease creates a month to month tenancy, which means you can terminate the lease on one month's notice--which in turn means that you are always obligated for one month's rent. If have not paid one month's rent separately, the landlord may apply the security depost against it, so this deposit was a security deposit, he can keep it on that ground.

2) If it was not a security deposit, paid on renting (including under an oral lease) it was a deposit to hold the apartment for you; that sort of deposit is not refundable if the prospective tenant changes his or her mind, unless the landlord voluntarily agrees.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.