Why Do People Sue Over Their Security Deposit?

Most landlords will require their tenants to give them a security deposit as part of their lease agreement. In theory, the security deposit is just meant to cover costs of any damage a tenant might cause to the apartment aside from normal wear and tear upon the tenant vacating the apartment with any unused money returned to the tenant. Some landlords may attempt to improperly keep the money from the deposit, which can lead to litigation. Here are just a few common reasons people sue over their security deposit:

  • Misuse of a security deposit
    • The security deposit is intended to be used to make repairs and perform maintenance other than normal wear and tear when the tenant vacates the apartment. Some landlords misuse their tenants’ security deposits to cover other unrelated expenses. This kind of misuse is shockingly common and many people do not recognize it because they do not know the purpose of a security deposit.
  • Overcharging for deductions
    • Even when a landlord uses a security deposit as intended, they may decide to fudge the numbers to deduct more than they should. This typically comes in the form of overcharging for maintenance or repairs, when they are supposed to charge reasonable rates when calculating deductions. A landlord might also decide to factor in the costs of upgrades or improvements to keep more of the deposit than they are entitled to keep.
  • Duplicate charges for cleaning or repairs
    • Even when a landlord charges an appropriate amount for maintenance and repairs, they may duplicate charges. An unscrupulous landlord may charge twice for the same service and hope that the tenant either will not notice or will dismiss it as a mistake. While this may happen accidentally as a simple accounting error, many times double-charging is intentional on the part of landlords.
  • Failing to account for deductions
    • Before making a deduction from someone’s security deposit to pay for maintenance or repairs, a landlord is supposed to inform the tenant. In addition, a landlord should be able to provide receipts for the services provided. A lack of notice or an inability to produce receipts is a warning and should be investigated further.
  • Refusing to give back the money
    • Sometimes, a landlord will dispense with any pretense and simply refuse to return a security deposit without a reason. A landlord may feel they are entitled to it regardless of whether it was used, or may simply be obstinate in the hopes that a tenant would rather give up their deposit rather than fight. As a tenant, you have a right to your security deposit, and may have a legal remedy if your landlord unlawfully withholds it from you. (A landlord may have a right to retain your security deposit if you owe back rent.)

If you are in a dispute with your landlord and want to know more about protecting yourself, do not wait until it is too late. You should seek advice from an attorney experienced in handling landlord-tenant disputes, who can advise you on your rights and help you avoid the risk of eviction. Contact the skilled landlord-tenant attorneys at Hobson-Williams, P.C.  Contact us online, toll-free (866) 825-1529 or (718) 210-4744 to discuss your rights and the solutions available to you.

Written by Tanya Hobson-Williams

Appointed to the bench by the Board of Trustees in 2008, and elected in 2009, Tanya Hobson-Williams was the first African-American Female Justice in the Incorporated Village of Hempstead. Tanya Hobson–Williams obtained her B.A. in Government and Politics from St. John’s University and her law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

Tanya Hobson-Williams has an active elder law practice assisting senior citizens in obtaining Medicaid for Home Care and Nursing Home Care. She routinely lectures at senior citizen centers, assisted living facilities, law schools and counsels families on a variety of topics of concerns to families caring for the elderly.

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Author: Tanya Hobson-Williams

Appointed to the bench by the Board of Trustees in 2008, and elected in 2009, Tanya Hobson-Williams was the first African-American Female Justice in the Incorporated Village of Hempstead. Tanya Hobson–Williams obtained her B.A. in Government and Politics from St. John's University and her law degree from Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Tanya Hobson-Williams has an active elder law practice assisting senior citizens in obtaining Medicaid for Home Care and Nursing Home Care. She routinely lectures at senior citizen centers, assisted living facilities, law schools and counsels families on a variety of topics of concerns to families caring for the elderly.

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