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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 28809
Experience:  Attorney
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In October 2012 we renewed our lease year. In January 2013

Customer Question

In October 2012 we renewed our lease for 1 year. In January 2013 we received notice we were relocating for my husbands job. We immediately submitted 6 weeks notice written notice to the property manager that we were terminating our lease early. We gave notice that we would be out of the home the first week of March. We were cooperative and showed the house and even while in the middle of packing, always kept it clean and organized. We have emails from the property manager stating our deposit would be returned provided the house was returned clean. We were also told we would have to pay $895 relisting fee. We paid full rent forMarch. We were advised the home was rented effective 3/15/13. We did our walk through and were told our security deposit would be returned to us and confirmed our forwarding address. After 3 months of not receiving our security deposit, nor a certified letter of why it was not being returned, we called the property manager and were told that our security deposit was used for the new tenant??? Is this legal? The home is in lawrenceville, Georgia. Do they have to send notice by mail within 30 days regardless of if they keep the security or return it? Are they subject to pay us double our security deposit for not sending us notice they were keeping it? Did we forfeit our security because we broke the lease early? There was nothing stated in the lease that would happen. We did not agree to pay $895 relisting fee- the house was shown twice and on free websites and I actually showed the house because it was shown by another realtor. The new tenant should have paid application fees. The lease does not say breaking the lease would cause me to pay $895 nor lose my security deposit. Is this legal? Is it too late to sue for my security if I am entitled? What are my rights? The landlord was not damaged and collected 1/2 months rent from us that was also paid by the new tenant.
Submitted: 12 months ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 12 months ago.


I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today. I'm sorry to hear that this happened.

No, that's not legal. They're free to choose whether they want to ask the new tenant for a security deposit or not, but they don't get to decide to keep YOUR deposit for that purpose. They're only allowed to keep your deposit to repair damages to the premises that you caused, or to cover unpaid rent. Code of Georgia, Section 44-7-34. They can't keep it as a penalty for you breaking the lease, either.

The 30 days is a firm timeline for either returning your full deposit or sending a written notice of the reasons they're not returning it. Failure to do that means they FORFEIT their right to keep ANY of the deposit. Section 44-7-35. They also forfeit their right to sue you for any damage to the premises. You can't get double - that same statute actually entitles you to three times your deposit, plus attorney's fees (which could wind up being at least a few thousand dollars). Had they properly accounted for the deposit, they would have been able to charge you their expenses associated with relisting the place, because you did break the lease. But now they have to give that back, too.

Also: you were only obligated to pay rent until the day the new tenant moved in. If you paid for all of March and they got a new tenant on 3/15, they owe you a pro-rated refund for half the month's rent.

It's not too late to sue - the statute of limitations in Georgia is 4 years for an oral lease, 6 for a written lease.

One option, if you'd prefer not to go to court, is to send the landlord a copy of that statute and give them a deadline for refunding your $895, your full deposit, and your half month's rent before you sue them for all that, plus the penalty and attorney's fees. Or you could go to court and file a lawsuit. These cases are typically heard in Magistrate's Court, where you're allowed to seek to recover up to $15,000. For more than that, talk to a local attorney.

It's important that you are 100% satisfied with my courtesy and professionalism. Thank you.

Customer: replied 12 months ago.
Thank you for your response. Would I go after the property management company or the landlord for the security deposit, or both? We paid rent directly into the landlords account but contacted the property manager for other issues pertaining to the home? Are they equally liable or independently liable? The $895 and security (and first months rent) was paid to the property manager but monthly rent was paid to the landlord which would have included paying march's rent.
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 12 months ago.

The landlord is liable, because the property manager is his agent. Everything they do is on the landlord's behalf. It's possible the landlord doesn't know what they're doing, or didn't tell them to, so you could try sending a demand letter to BOTH. But if you sue, the landlord would be the named defendant.

Customer: replied 12 months ago.
Are you allowed to sue for $15,000 or only for the sum of the security deposit times 3 plus the $895 plus attorney's fees?
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 12 months ago.

$15,000 is the maximum anyone can seek in Magistrate's Court. I mentioned that because I don't know how much your security deposit and rent was. What you'd be entitled to in this particular case is three times the deposit, plus the $895, plus half a month's rent, plus attorney's fees. If all of that is less than $15k, you can file in Magistrate's Court. If it's going to be more than that you can go to the Superior Court.