What are my rights for a refund if the check I gave for the first month’s rent was cashed but I never moved in?

UPDATED: Sep 30, 2022

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What are my rights for a refund if the check I gave for the first month’s rent was cashed but I never moved in?

I decided to rent a room very short term about 3 months This agreement was made through craigslist. I visited and paid first months rent and received the keys but I didn’t stay the night as there was no bed that she said would be provided. Then, 2 days later, I went to actually move in and I had an allergic reaction getting blotchy and itchy and having to leave the apartment. I brought up my concerns with her and said I would try to spend the night to see if it happened again but she said it would be better for me to leave so she could attempt to find someone else quickly. That night I went and retrieved my belongings and left having never stayed even 1 night at the apartment. I never signed a lease or anything prior to moving in and she has cashed my rent check regardless of the fact I never moved in. Is there anything I can do to get my money back?

Asked on October 14, 2016 under Real Estate Law, Alaska


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 6 years ago | Contributor

Generally, even if there was no written lease, you always owe at least a month's rent at a time and 30 days notice before moving out, because you'd be a month-to-month tenant (i.e. you always have to pay at least one month's rent). If you had anything in writing that you were renting for three months, you'd normally owe all three months of rent, since that's what you obligated yourself in writing for (though a landlord could choose to take less).
If the landlord did not agree to let you move out and return the money, the landlord could therefore keep your month's rent.
By the way, it doesn't matter if you moved in or not: you can rent a place without living in it, and the law doesn't care about whether you occupied it or not--all that matters is that you agreed to rent it.
If there was an agreement that you could move out early and the landlord would repay the rent, you could enforce that agreement in court: since you did your part (moving out) but the landlord did not do his (repayment), you'd sue for breach of contract to get the money she owes you. If there was nothing in writing (just an oral agreement), it will come down to "he said, she said"--i.e. a judge will listen to the two of you and decide who is telling the truth. Suing in small claims court, as your own attorney ("pro se") is a very good option, since that way, you will have little at stake other than your time.

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