Am I entitled to a refund of my security deposit?

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Am I entitled to a refund of my security deposit?

I signed a lease for a property rental and later requested a change to the move in date. The landlord’s agent left me a voice mail stating the landlord agreed to the change and the agent said he would get back to me with the new lease paper work which he never did. State law says a verbal agreement is valid if the lease is 12 months or less. The landlord confirmed the new agreement and move in date in an email but later said he was taking the offer off the table. I am requesting the return of my security deposit which the landlord is attempting to keep saying I’m in default of the original lease.

Asked on January 25, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

The issue is not whether an oral lease (that's the better term, by the way) is valid or not--it's whether the original written lease was validly changed. A contract--and that's what a lease is--can be changed by the mutual agreement of the parties. If the written lease contained a clause stating that any changes must be in writing, an oral modification would be invalid. Even without such a clausse, proving the existence and the terms of an oral agreement to change the lease would be very difficult, if the landlord and/or broker "remember" things differently than you. Since you'd have to sue to get the deposit back if the landlord won't provide it, the onus--and burden of proof--would be on you to show the existence and terms of the agreement in court.


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