What to do if I paid $200 of a $500 refundable security deposit on an apartment that I wanted to move in to and now can’t get it back?

Upon further research, I found out that the apartment had not been inspected to verify that it was up to the city codes, so I declined renting with the company. Now they are calling what I paid a “non-refundable holding fee” and refuse to return the $200. I have documentation of them calling it part of the deposit and they never called it a holding fee, until I changed my mind. I never signed a lease. What can I do?

Asked on January 22, 2013 under Real Estate Law, Michigan

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

You need to contact the state attorney general, any building and safety department or health department who can do on site inspections and force the landlord into paying you your money back.. If these calls cannot help, you need to sue your landlord for the monies back in small claims court.

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Normally, deposits on apartments or other rentals are non-refundable if the would-be tenant elects to not rent; however, if the deposit was specifically stated to be refundable under these circumstances, then you should get it back. If they will not return it voluntarily, you could sue for its return, such as in small claims court, where filing fees are low and you could act as your own attorney. You would use the documentation to which you refer to prove that  the fee was refundable.


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