When Janice Sellers showed up at her bank to cash her landlord’s returned security deposit, the teller surprised her by stamping “Stop Payment” all over the check. After contacting him about the incident, her former landlord told her he had stopped the check because she had destroyed a cabinet in her old apartment. Sellers took a friend with her to check out the furniture in question.
“What he had apparently done was taken a hammer to the cabinet and broken it into several pieces,” Sellers told MainStreet. “He, of course, denied that he had done so and insisted that I had caused the damage. I saw there was no use in arguing, because it was my word against his.”
Seller’s sentiments echo the belief of most renters: When it comes to getting back a security deposit, they are at the mercy of their landlord, not only because they signed a lease he or she had written, but because few tenants want to pursue litigation.
“Court can be a very overwhelming task for renters. Often, they will give up on getting their deposit back due to the huge hassle required, ” Scott Paxton, Director of the Rental Protection Agency (RPA), said, before adding “renters should never be forced to give their landlord $1 more than they need to.”
This is because getting back your security deposit may be easier than you think. There are organizations, such as the RPA and local Divisions of Housing and Community Renewal, that were created, in part, to provide cost effective ways of settling tenant/landlord disputes. But, beyond that, taking a landlord to Smalls Claims Court can be relatively inexpensive.