If I put a deposit on a house and then found that I wasn’t able to move, can I get my deposit back?

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If I put a deposit on a house and then found that I wasn’t able to move, can I get my deposit back?

I found out 2 weeks before hand that I wasn’t able to move into a home that I had put a deposit on. We didn’t sign a lease, just a paper saying that we had paid the deposit for the house. It had the address on the paper along with the dates that we moved in and out. Since we never moved in or signed a lease can we get our deposit back?

Asked on March 26, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Indiana

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Without a signed written lease, but with an agreement to rent or lease, you were a month to month tenant on an oral lease. That means that while you can terminate tenancy on 30 days notice, you are always obligated for at least one month's rent--even at the outset. Therefore, the landlord should be entitled to keep an amount of the deposit equal to one month's rent.

You say, though, that there was a piece of paper "with the dates we moved in and out." Depending on what exactly that said, it's not impossible that could be considered a written lease for  the listed term and you could be held liable for even more rent. If the landlord tries to hold you accountable for more than one month's rent, you should consult with a landlord-tenant attorney.


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