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


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.

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 AttorneyPages.com 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.