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socallegalwork, Attorney
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Satisfied Customers: 104
Experience:  Attorney and licensed real estate broker with over twelve years of experience, specializing in landlord/tenant matters.
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I want to be very specific. I rented an apartment with a

Customer Question

I want to be very specific. I rented an apartment with a lady on 10/22/14. It is a month to month lease agreement. The lease can be terminated with a 30 day notice. There is/was no subleasing. I have given my landlord my 30 day notice. My roommate intends on remaining in the apartment. I paid one half of the security deposit, my roommate paid the other half. My landlord has informed me that I cannot get my one half of the security deposit until when / if roommate decided to leave. The problem
is I need my security deposit returned when I leave. Can my landlord keep my half of the deposit until my roommate leaves?
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  socallegalwork replied 3 months ago.

I don't know your specific jurisdiction, but I will tell you that generally speaking, unfortunately, the short answer is that the landlord can keep your half of the security deposit until the property is entirely vacated.

Regardless of whether the security deposit was paid in separate portions by the tenants, the tenants remain jointly and severally liable for all damages to the property. This means that in most situations a landlord need not return or itemize the security deposit until everyone in the property vacates. This is why lawyers will commonly advise tenants to have roommate agreements to settle this matter between them.

Was the security deposit paid separately by you and your roommate (separate checks)? If so, you can argue that the landlord, in accepting separate payments, implicitly acknowledged that each tenant was only responsible for 1/2 (or whatever the breakdown was) of the damages. But this is an argument you would likely have to make in court, it won't get you your money back anytime soon and in my experience would likely fail anyway.

One thing you can do now to protect your deposit, if not get it back, is to ask the landlord to perform an inspection when you leave to document the state of the unit now (compared to when the roommate finally leaves). You can also take pictures, etc.

You can also pursue your money from the roommate, arguing the roommate should now refund you your share of the deposit. Again, this would likely require taking your roommate to court and arguing you had an oral agreement, as well as any other causes of action you can throw in. But these are not easy, quick solutions unfortunately.

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