When must landlords return a security deposit if they end up deciding not to rent to a group of people?

Landlords (property is owned by a family) decided they didn’t want to rent to our group. By that point I had already given a security check for $2,500 which was deposited but they insist that they won’t return it either as cash or check until after the weekend. The check has cleared (i.e. I’m down $2500/they’re up $2500), and I supplied proof of this from my bank (including images of the signed check via my on-line banking account). They even spoke on the phone with a rep from my bank who confirmed all of this. The lease was never signed. I have requested a return by phone and in person.

Asked on September 3, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Massachusetts


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the landlord has breached the agreement or lease by not renting to you, the landlord must return the entire deposit. There are many situations where the landlord may keep the deposit, but those involve the tenant or prospective tenant changing his or her mind, breaking the lease, etc. But in a case like the one you describe, the landlord is NOT entitled to keep your money without renting the space to you.

However, there is no hard and fast rule about "when" they have to return it. At some point, if you believe that they are not going to give it back, your recourse is to flle a lawsuit for its return, which will force the issue. Good luck.

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