What do do if my tenant is claiming that I didn’t refund hisfull deposit within 14 days even though the lease states 30 days minus expenses incurred?

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What do do if my tenant is claiming that I didn’t refund hisfull deposit within 14 days even though the lease states 30 days minus expenses incurred?

My tenant recently moved out, and per the lease agreement, I had 30 days to return the balance of his deposit. His deposit was $1350 and I returned $900 back to him within 30 days. I deducted expenses for various areas of cleaning and fixing that needed to be done. And on top of that, he changed all of the locks on the house without letting me know, and had a dog illegally. He says that the full deposit needed to be returned to him within 14 days and he doesn’t acknowledge any wrongdoing. Now he wants to know if I would prefer arbitration or small claims court. What is best?

Asked on May 12, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Generally arbitration is binding meaning that if the outcome does not abide by the law you have no right to appeal.  So Small Claims court is the way to go BUT make sure you see the Judge.  Some states and counties allow you to go to a mediator and you can not appeal that decision either.  Now, you need to do some preparation in your case.  Go on line and look up "security deposits" in your state laws.  See if the statute says 14 days or as agreed to by the parties.  A lease is a contract and the tenant is assumed to have read and entered in to it freely.  So if he agreed to modify the 14 days to allow you 30 he is stuck with it now.  Then look up what you have the right to deduct money for and how you need to do that.  Normal wear and tear is not deductible.  Cleaning is not necessarily deductible either unless it was not left "broom clean" and they really did  something to it.  The dog may be your out here if it urinated or defecated in the apartment or left hair everywhere.  It violated the lease outright.  Good luck to you.


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