Can I deduct the cost of the stolen items from my roommates half of the security deposit?

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Can I deduct the cost of the stolen items from my roommates half of the security deposit?

My roommate moved out today. However, I am staying in the apartment. On her way out, she stole about $100 worth of my personal belongings. The security deposit of $800 that we went halves on must stay with the apartment, so it is my “obligation” to buy out her part of the security deposit. Should I give her the $400? Or can I deduct the $100 from her part of the deposit?

Asked on February 11, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

You cannot unilaterally deduct money from your roommate--if you do, *you* will have committed a form of theft. If  you believe your roommate stole from you, there are two things you can do: first, you can sue her for the return of the belongings; second, you can report her to the police. (You can do both; it's not either/or.) You might also discuss with her that the she seems to have taken some things that you believe are actually yours and you expect them back--you can let her know that if she does not return them (in which case you can assume it was just a mistake), you'll have to take legal action. But again, the one thing you can't do is simply take money that would belong to her; two wrongs do not make a right.


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