Can my landlord cash my deposit check before I sign my lease?

UPDATED: May 31, 2011

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Can my landlord cash my deposit check before I sign my lease?

My boyfriend and I applied for an apartment a few weeks back, and the woman we were dealing with told us that she would mail us the paperwork we need to sign. She then told us that she would cash the check once we mailed back the paperwork. She went ahead and cashed it anyways before mailing us anything.

Asked on May 31, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Minnesota


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, it depends on what kind of a deposit it was. If it was a security deposit for the apartment, or first or last month's rent, then no; until the lease is signed, you have no rights to or obligations regarding the premises, and hence you would not be prepaying rent or placing a security deposit. On the other hand, if it was a deposit connected with applying for the apartment--for example, a deposit that the landlord should hold the apartment for you--then yes, in that case, the landlord could cash it in advance of signing the lease, since the deposit was to keep the apartment available.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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