What is the law concerning the return of a deposit?

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2022

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What is the law concerning the return of a deposit?

I gave a holding deposit for a place and I do not take the place due to the landlord wanting a double deposit. Before I even gave my money the landlord said it was refundable. Once I notified him that I was not willing to pay the double deposit and I would like to be refunded, he gave me a date when he was going to refund my money. The date has passed and now the landlord is saying I should learn the law concerning holding deposits. Am I entitled to a refund, is he entitled to keep his word?

Asked on September 3, 2015 under Real Estate Law, California


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

If you gave a partial deposit knowing the landlord expected more, but then decided that you were unwilling to pay that much, the landlord may keep your deposit in this case, you breached the agreement by being unwilling to go through with obligations of which you were aware before making the initial deposit. 
If, however, on the other hand as I believe is the case from what you write, you deposited what you thought would be the entire deposit, then the landlord told you the deposit was double that, it was the landlord who breached, by not following the terms of the agreement and instead unilaterally on his own without your consent attempting to alter the agreement, which is something he may not do. In that case, his breach would entitle you to the return of your deposit, since he is the one in default of his contractual obligations and if he will not voluntarily return it, you may sue him e.g. in small claims court for its return.

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