If my landlord won’t give me my security deposit, what can I do?

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If my landlord won’t give me my security deposit, what can I do?

I signed a lease and gave a security deposit as well as the 1st month’s rent. However, when I attempted to move into the room, my keys did not work so I had no access to the room. I told her and she said she would take care of it, but I still never was able to get into the room. In addition, I was not recieving mail (and she told me that the management was withholding the mail bc I never moved in. I paid an additional month, but still had no access to the room I was renting. She promised that it would be taken care of, and it still hasn’t.

Asked on May 29, 2012 under Real Estate Law, District of Columbia

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the landlord did not provide you with possession of the space you leased, the landlord would have materially breached the lease. That material breach could have entitled you to terminate the lease without penalty, to get any deposits back, to recover your rental payments, and possibly to seek other compensation (e.g. storage costs for your belongings; the cost if you had to live in a hotel; etc.). From what you write, you may have a legal claim for several hundred or even several thousand dollars; it would be worthwhile for you to sue the landlord yourself, in small claims court, for the return of you money, or even (for larger amounts) to retain an attorney to bring a lawsuit on your behalf.


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