What to do if my landlord wants to keep my $450 security deposit on the basis that I broke the contract by not cleaning up the house?

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What to do if my landlord wants to keep my $450 security deposit on the basis that I broke the contract by not cleaning up the house?

However, if he wanted me to clean more, I think he should have told me so, as I was extremely new to the home and had no idea what the cleaning schedule was. He never gave me a schedule, just a general list of items which I tended to as best I could, working a full time job where I don’t get home until late and have to leave early. I want to push for my deposit, but I don’t want to be put out as a bad rentee or wind up loosing a case and giving him even more money. What do you advise? Should I take him to court or cut my losses? And if I should take him to court, this is my first case ever, so how do I go about doing this?

Asked on November 14, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

As a general matter, a landlord may NOT keep a security deposit due to a lack of cleaning, unless the landlord incurred legitimate out-of-pocket expenses to clean after the tenancy is over: for example, had to pay for a dumpster to haul away garbage left behind by the tenant. Even if there was a contract or lease requiring cleaning, the landlord may not keep the deposit due to a breach of that term or provision except to the extent the landlord can show he/she incurred out of pocket costs or losses. From what you write, it seems that you should be entilted to recover your deposit. The easiest way to seek its recovery would be to file a case in small claims court for it. As to whether you should or should not: assume that if you sue this landlord, you will of course not be able to use him/her as a reference. Weigh that, and the small cost of a small claims suit, and the time/effort of one, versus what the $450 means to you.


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