My ex-roommate is refusing to pay his share of the security deposit.

When ‘Bob’ originally moved in to our NYC apartment last year, we did not request a security deposit from him because the guy he was replacing, ‘Jim’ said he didn’t need his portion back, and would instead just wait for us to get the full amount back when we eventually moved out. Two months later, Jim suddenly broke up with his girlfriend and needed the money back to finance a new place for himself. I paid Jim back his portion out of pocket because he needed the money badly and I happened to have it in my savings at the time.

It then fell to me to go to my two new roommates and ask them to split his portion. I apologized for having them sign onto the lease under the pretense that there would be no deposit, but circumstances had changed. One was very understanding and shortly thereafter had payed into the deposit. Bob, on the other hand, still has no money in the deposit almost a year after my original ask.

He never said ‘no’ outright, but he kept deferring and dodging/ignoring me so I dropped it, thinking I would surely get all my money back upon moving out, since that’s how security deposits work. I think I asked him two or three times over the course of several months how it was coming and I never got a straight answer.

Meanwhile, the rest of us had been covering bills and rent that he was late on for multiple months, with no explanation for why he was late or when the money was coming. He only confessed that he had been having financial troubles all along after eavesdropping on us talking about him in the kitchen near his room.

Also meanwhile, Bob wasn’t answering any of my texts or calls to the number that he gave me before moving in, and when I facebook messaged him to ask if he was getting my messages, he responded that facebook was the only way to get in touch with him. He never specified if the number didn’t work or he didn’t have a phone or anything like that. He never explained what happened to the number he gave me. It just didn’t exist all of the sudden. At one point he went on vacation for multiple weeks and missed a rent payment as a result and we had to call his mom to find out where he was.

The lease turned over at the end of August 2018. I haven’t lived there since May. I moved to Colorado and found a subletter who paid a portion of my deposit and has since signed onto the new lease. I am no longer on the lease, but Bob is. In August he agreed to finally pay into the deposit, covering all the money that I still have in it. Totally unprompted, he said he would have a check in the mail by 9/15. On 9/25 I hadn’t heard or received anything, so I messaged him for an update. I got no response so a couple day later I tried again.

The day after that, I called him out in a group message where all the roommates in the apartment would see as well that he was dodging me again and this was a pattern he kept displaying. He finally messaged me back–privately–to say he was waiting for a student loan refund and then he would have the money, but had no idea when it was coming and no good excuse for why he couldn’t have told me that a whole month earlier. I wrote a multi-paragraph strongly word letter that outlined a number of ways in which he had shown himself to be an immature, irresponsible hypocrite and that he couldn’t just keep making these lies of omission and acting confused when we catch him in them and get upset that he was keep important information from us and keep us in the dark about things that affect us.

He responded with a bunch more excuses and saying I’ll get it when I get it and I repeated that none of his financial issues or personal problems justified constantly lying to us and failing to communicate for an entire year.

Do I have any way of making him pay this money?

Asked on September 30, 2018 under Real Estate Law, Colorado

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

A contract can be either written or oral. If you had an agreement with your ex-roommate that he would pay his share of the security deposit then you can sue him in small claims court for breach of that contract. Brinh whatever supporting documentation that you may have (e.g.  emails, witnesses, etc).

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 2 years ago | Contributor

If he agreed to pay his share of the security deposit, even if it was an oral (unwritten) agreement, you can sue him for "breach of contract" for the money. Suing in small claims court, on a "pro se" (as your own attorney) basis is a good, cost-effective idea. In court, you would have to persuade the court that he was to pay his share; since that is normally how it's done when people rent together, it should be reasonably easy to do this.


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