What to do if our former landlord is refusing to return the security deposit because we moved out early even the they re-rented the unit immediately after?

Our lease agreement does state as a condition of security deposit release “full term of lease has expired”. We gave the landlord more than 30 days notice and went out of our way to ensure that she had a new tenant when we left. Kept the property in pristine condition, allowing her to show it on multiple occasions. Took a day off work and spent it scrubbing enormous deck that was filthy the day we moved in. There were no damages, and the property was in better shape after we moved out than before we moved in, many upgrades made. Then 3 days after we vacated, new tenants moved in.

Asked on October 18, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Tennessee


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Normally, if you terminated a lease early BUT the landlord immediately rerented the premises, so there was no loss of rent (and there was also no damage to the property, requiring replacement or repair), then you would have a very good case for getting the entire deposit back: with no losses to the landlord, there would be no grounds to keep the deposit.

However, the normal rules can be changed by contract, and that's what a lease is--a contract. If the lease states that the landlord may keep the deposit unless the full term of the lease has expired, there is a good chance that clause is enforceable; it is something you agreed to in signing the lease. For a more definitive opinion, you should have the lease revied by an attorney, who can analyze it and the situation in detail, but from what you write, there is a good chance the landlord can keep the deposit.

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