Is it legal for me to withhold a portion of the security deposit from my roommate because she didn’t bother to help clean anything?

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Is it legal for me to withhold a portion of the security deposit from my roommate because she didn’t bother to help clean anything?

She stated she did not want to clean the place anyways. She also waited until 1 week before we had to resign out lease that she was moving out, yet management knew more in advance. My parents and I spent 3 solid hours cleaning top to bottom except her room.

Asked on February 10, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Minnesota

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If you did not receive all of the deposit back from the landlord due to something the roommate did or failed to do, you may have grounds to withhold that amount from her. (The theory is, her breach of the lease by causing damage, etc. to the premises caused you a loss; as a party to the contract--since that's what a lease is, a contract--you would have grounds under the lease to take action against her, if necessary.) However, if she disputes your right to do this, you have to be prepared for potential legal action, which means that doing this may be more trouble than it's worth.

If you received the entire deposit back, you may not withhold anything from her, unless there was some separate contract or agreement between the two of you, for example, that she would do half of the cleaning, that she breached.


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