What to do if my landlord did not honor an agreement to refund my security deposit?

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What to do if my landlord did not honor an agreement to refund my security deposit?

I paid rent then inspected the room before moving in. I found it unsatisfactory and an unsafe environment and decided not to move in. The landlord signed a written agreement to pay back the rent I had paid within 2 weeks but failed to do so. I never stayed the night or received mail at the residence, I had some belongings in the home for 4 hours. Do I have a case against her?

Asked on February 6, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Washington

Answers:

Frank Avellone / Law Office of Frank G. Avellone

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Landlord-tenant relationships are governed by state law.  If, under the law of your state, the landlord is wrongfully retaining all or a portion of your deposit, then most state laws have a penalty provision allowing the tenant to recover 2 or 3 times the amount of the deposit, plus court costs, plus ATTORNEY's FEES if the tenant has to resort to suing.  The "American Rule" is that (while the losing party pays the court costs) each party is responsible for the payment of their own attorney.  There are limited exceptions to this "American Rule" and, in most states, one exception is the award of attorney's fees to a tenant compelled to sue to recover their deposit.  This is called "fee-shifting."  Many tenants' rights attorneys are willing to take deposit refund cases on a "fee-shifting" basis so that you can have the legal services you need at no cost to you.  The deposit refund process frequently starts by your sending the landlord a written demand for a refund (date, sign, keep it short, provide a forwarding address, keep a copy).  Again, consult with a tenant's rights attorney in your state.


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