Can landlord keep my security deposit?

I filled out and application, paid that. Got my security deposit ready and told the owner I wanted to move in next week. He said he would put my in one of the more finished buildings. Next week the day before my move-in date I come to sign the lease and get my key. The apartment has no refrigerator, stove, drawers are missing, and the bathtub faucet is missing. I told the manager I didn’t know the unit was unfinished as I needed to move in on the next day. Can they keep my security deposit if I never got to sign the lease and the unit was not ready on the date the owner and I agreed upon?

Asked on November 12, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

They probably cannot keep the security deposit in this case, not so much because the written lease was not yet signed (an oral or verbal agreement to rent creates an oral lease, which is enforceable on a month-to-month basis--hence you could be held liable for at least one month's rent even without signing a lease) but because the landlord materially (or significantly) breached the lease (whether oral or written) by not having the apartment ready for you on the agreed-upon date. That breach would provide grounds for you to terminate the lease without penalty.

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