What to do if my landlord doesn’t want to give me my deposit back?

I moved out 3 months ago and my landlord still didn’t send me my deposit. They say that they cannot give me my money back until the girl who moved in pays her deposit. She didn’t sublease my contract. Is that legally possible? What can I do to get my money back?

Asked on October 25, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Missouri


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

1) If your lease either expired or you validily terminated it early, pursuant to notice, the landlord may *not* withhold your deposit because a new tenant has not paid her deposit yet. The new tenant has nothing to do with you--only in a  sublease situation (where you are still the tenant on the lease) would the landlord be able to hold your deposit when there is a new tenant.

2) The only legal grounds for a landlord to hold a tenant's deposit are: i) to pay for repairs to the premises, required because of damage done by the tenant; or ii) when at the termination or end of tenancy, the tenant still owed unpaid rent (the deposit may be applied to that rent).

3) If the landlord won't give your deposit back when the landlord should, your recourse is to sue. You can likely sue in small claims court (represent yourself, so no lawyer fee; small court costs; cases move more quickly).

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.