How to Get Your Damage Deposit Returned
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How to Get Your Damage Deposit Returned

This article was written as a response to the question: What do I do if my landlord doesn't give my damage deposit back?
Your lease must state how damage deposits are handled.

If your landlord has not returned your damage deposit, check your lease agreement. A lease agreement should state exactly how your rental deposit will be handled when you satisfy your lease. In most states a landland has 14 days to return the deposit you paid when you signed your lease, or explain why some money is being withheld.

When you read your lease, if you do not see this information about how your deposit will be handled call a local real estate agent and ask about this. Although real estate agents or brokers can't give you legal advise, they can tell you what they know. They will be familiar with the amount of time this should take and what you can do to expedite the return of your money. Some real estate agents may also offer you the actual forms you need to follow up on this issue.

After refreshing your memory by reading your lease, contact your former landlord by phone and remind them what the agreement was. Of course they know what the agreement was and may be stalling because they do not have the funds to return your money. Don't have too much sympathy-it is your money we are talking about here. Be polite but firm. Immediately after this, send a certified letter requesting that your money be returned. Include a copy of your original lease agreement. Let the landlord know you intend to follow through if necessary, but hope to avoid this. Unfortunately in most states, this gives the landlord more time while you wait.

When everything you do does not work, you usually have the option of filing with Small Claims Court. You can get the forms you need for this at your local court house. The people who work at the court house will help you understand what information is needed to file a claim. Again, these employees can't give you legal advise but will tell you what your next step is. In the unlikely event they do not have all forms you need, you can get legal forms at any office supply store.

Do not allow anyone to have your original lease. Make copies of this to send with any forms that request further information. 

Once you have done all of this, a date for a hearing should be set to determine if your damage deposit should be returned. You and the landload will have to be at the hearing. If one person does not show for the hearing, the case is usually decided in favor of the person who did. Here is the bad news about all of this: If the landlord is told the money must be paid, but the landland does not follow through, you will have to let the courts know. The court may then give you a judgement against this person. This will mean you have a piece of paper that allows you the right to collect the money, or to ask a collection agency to handle it. You could be waiting a long time. Sometimes your best hope is to work with the landlord on getting your deposit back, even if you have to accept payments.

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