If my tenant gave away my TV and agreed to pay for it but doesn’t, can I keep her deposit?

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If my tenant gave away my TV and agreed to pay for it but doesn’t, can I keep her deposit?

I’m renting a condo and left a TV in the unit and listed it in the lease as an appliance. Last year the tenant gave the TV away without permission. About 9 months ago I told her the price was $300 or I wanted it back. She could not find the guy who took the tv and said, “Money is a little tight right now but I will do my best to get it to you as soon as I can”. She has not paid a penny and is moving out in 3 months. Now she’s trying to go back on her word and not pay me but wants to trade me a smaller older TV. I refused the trade per the original agreement. Can I keep her deposit if she doesn’t pay me?

Asked on March 29, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Colorado

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You may be able to keep her deposit--or at least such portion of it as is necessary to pay for the television. One of the purposes of the security deposit it to pay for the repair or replacement of the landlord's property, damaged or destroyed by a tenant. While the most common cause of such "damage" is physical damage, an appliance or other property of the landlord  is equally "destroyed" if the tenant takes it him/herself or unlawfully gives it to another, as it would have been had the tenant hit it with sledgehammer. Since you could apply the tenant's security deposit to a television she broke, you should be able to apply it to a television which she gave to someone else and cannot recover for  you.


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