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

Answers:

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).


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