What are my rights if my landlord has kept my entire security deposit?

I paid the full amount of rent for a 12 month lease and then my landlord moved back in. My landlord told me that he would not be returning my security deposit because the damage I had caused to a carpet took up the full amount of my deposit. He told me in an email that because of this I had forfeited my security deposit and would not be getting any of it back. I called Home Depot and they confirmed that the total cost of a new carpet plus installation that my landlord had purchased from them was $400. That leaves me with $900 left that should have been returned to me. Because my landlord lied about the extra money and tried to keep it for himself, is that embezzlement? Can I press charges?

Asked on November 5, 2015 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

No, it is not "embezzlement" and it is not something you can press charges over. It *is* something you can sue the landlord over, and  if you can show in the lawsuit that he overcharged you for any damage and that you did not owe any rent balance, he'd have to pay back the excess balance of the security deposit--the $900. For $900, suing in small claims court, acting as your own attorney ("pro se") is an excellent option.


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