I need my security deposit!! Landlord wont call me?

I was renting an apartment and moved out by the end of July. I gave my landlord my forwarding address and gave proper notice. PA law states that after taking out damages and unpaid rent, a landlord or property owner must send its tenants the list of damages and/or the full or partial security deposit no later than 30 days after the lease ends or when the landlord accepts the tenant's keys to vacate the premises early, whichever occurs first. After 30 days passed I called and left a message, called again and talked to the assistant who stated she thought he mailed the security deposit and would call me back. Never heard back. Its now Oct. Do I need to get a lawyer involved or is there a state agency that will help me for free? What do I do next

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  • 1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    At this point you might consider going to small claims.

    First, just filing the paperwork will possibly cause them to come up with the money immediately to avoid the aggravation of going to court.

    Second, the landlord has to either return the deposit or give you an accounting in 30 days - they missed their date, so they will have no standing in court - the judgement will be for you.

    Third, if you can document and prove actual damages because they failed to live up to their obligations, you can attempt to recover that amount in small claims; you can't do that any other way.

    Remember, actual damages would be something like "I had to put the amount on my credit card, and here are the interest charges". You won't be able to recover on something like "I couldn't get a job because I couldn't move into my new apartment" because that is iffy, and you can't document the actual losses.

    Your chances of succeeding are very good because the burden of proof is on the landlord, not you. Make sure you document everything, and don't conduct any communication with the landlord verbally from here on - it has to be registered mail and everything in writing.

    Free legal advice is appropriate in this case because big dollars are not involved, but you should take it on yourself to read up on tenant/landlord law. There are Nolo books at the library that cover this exact situation, and they are easy to read. They will explain in plain English what steps you need to take next. No lawyers are allowed in small claims.

    If the judge determines that the landlord withheld funds and did not refund or account for damages within the 30 days, you may be able to ask for the full amount of the deposit back for 'bad-faith' on the part of the landlord, plus actual expenses/damages caused by not returning the money or accounting for it on time. The excuse 'the check's in the mail' can only hold weight if they sent it certified mail, or it got returned with insufficient postage - they'd better be able to come up with physical evidence that it was mailed within the 30 day period or the judgement will go in your favor.

    If you study the Nolo book, you'll see where it says you should send a registered letter with a Demand Notice for the full amount (they missed the 30 day limit, right?) or you'll take legal action. It's time to stop fooling around. If they say they want more time to come up with an accounting, forget it - they missed their deadline. If they want to settle with you at that point with a reasonable amount, then take it. Either way, you'll have pushed them off a dead stop.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Google "PA Tenant's rights" so you can try to find a free or low-cost attorney just in case. Keep calling this place, or if you have the address physically GO to the office. Demand your money back - don't let people run off with your money. Good luck, and don't back down.

    Oh, and even if, hypothetically speaking, they took your whole deposit to cover damage, they are required by law to send you a statement of what the amounts were applied to within the same 30 days they should have sent you a check.

  • 1 decade ago

    Besides what the law says, what does your contract stipulate? You will need to go over that too. I don't think that's a state matter though and you may need a lawyer which means probably more money than you are going to get back but - they usually do consultations for free then that should give you a good idea of what route to pursue without making a commitment

  • 4 years ago

    Find out if there is a tenant's association in the town in NJ. They generally will help you on something like this for free. You might find out that a lot of the stuff he wants you to pay for falls under the heading of fair wear and tear. Check and see if NJ has a state Property Code. Some states specify in the state property codes what is fair wear and tear and what is not. In some states the property code will specify tenant rights. See if there is a time line for him refunding your deposit. If so, he may have missed the date since it is usually 30 days. Do you have a lease? Read the lease closely.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Phone calls are not the way to do it. That way, you have no proof that you even tried to contact the landlord. You need to request it in writing via certified mail.

  • MadMan
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    Are you willing to sue him? Sounds like this is what it will need. Time to go to small claims court.

  • mary k
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    I would at least call a lawyer.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    give him another month.

    then go and break all his windows.

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