If Ipaid a deposit but never moved in, signed a lease or received keys, does the landlord have the right to keep my deposit?

Asked on March 8, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Ohio


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

First, what kind of a deposit was it? If it was a security deposit against unpaid rent or damage to the premises, see below; but if it was a deposit to get the landlord to hold the apartment for you, then the landlord may absolutely keep the entire deposit. When a deposit is paid to hold an apartment (or a car, TV, or any item) and the buyer/renter then reneges, the seller/landlord may keep the deposit.

If it was a security deposit, then the answer depends on how large was the deposit vis-a-vis the monthly rent. Without a written lease, but with agreement to rent--which was evidenced by you paying a deposit--you were a month to month tenant. A month to month tenant is always obligated for at least one month of rent  at a time. Therefore, if you agreed to rent, you would owe at least one month's rent; that means that the landlord may take an amount out of the deposit equal to one month's rent, if you do not otherwise pay the month's rent, then return the remaining balance (if any).

So it appear that the landlord could keep some or even all of your deposit, depending on the circumstances.

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