Cana landlord keep my security deposit if I never moved in?

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Cana landlord keep my security deposit if I never moved in?

I gave a landlord a security deposit for an apartment that I had planned to move into on 12/01. However, I found a much better deal and have decided not to move into the apartment that I put a security deposit on. I filled out a rental application for the first apartment and after reviewing it this morning I discovered that the application also serves as a rental agreement; it outlines the terms of a 12-month lease. I signed this agreement. Can the landlord now legally keep my security deposit even though I’m not moving in?

Asked on November 24, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Iowa

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, moving in--or not--to the premises is irrelevant. Alll that matters is if you contractually obligated--i.e. through a lease--yourself to pay rent in exchange for having the apartment available to you. Once  and if the landlord has honored its side of the agreement, by making the apartment available to  you, it's not the landlord's concern when or even whether you move in--you still have to pay under the lease/contract.

If you signed a lease, you are obligated for the rent for the full term; the landlord may sue you for the rent, and may also apply the security deposit vs. the rent you owe. It is *possible* that you may be able to rescind, or get out, the lease on the grounds of ""unilateral mistake''--basically, that you didn't know what you were signing--but it's unlikely, since the unilateral mistake must have occured despite you taking reasonable care to avoid erroros. If there was nothing deceptive in the agreement and you simply didn't read it carefully before signinig, then you probably did not take care and cannot avail yourself of this defense to liability.


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