Can I go to small claims court to sue my landlord for not giving me back my deposit since we had bed bugs?

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Can I go to small claims court to sue my landlord for not giving me back my deposit since we had bed bugs?

Asked on October 3, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Hawaii

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

There is no enough information in your question to truly answer it, since you do not state under what circumstances you are seeking the return of your deposit. As general principles:

1) If you tried to terminate your tenancy early due to bedbugs, the issue will be whether the termination was proper. Having bedbugs, by itself, would not allow a tenant to terminate his/her tenancy; to lawfully terminate the tenancy, the  infestation would have to be bad enough to make the premises uninhabitable to a reasonable person, and the landlord must have failed to take steps to address it after both notice of the problem and a reasonable time to act. If any of these conditons were not met, your termination was unlawful and the landlord may withhold or keep your deposit to pay for the rent you should have paid.

2) If you're talking about at the end of your tenancy (e.g. at lease expiration), then the landlord may only keep your deposit to pay for rent you failed to pay or for damage you did to the unit. However, if there was unpaid rent or damage, the landlord may keep part or all of the deposit as compensation even if at some point there were bedbugs.


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