My ex-tenants are taking me to Small Claims court for being late in returning their security deposit. I was 13 days late and all deductions are by law and well documented. I'm not worried about the amount withheld, just that they are asking for >$3000 for it being late.... double damages? I was late, but very accurate on deductions, can a penalty be that high?
Country relating to Question: United States
State (if USA): Wisconsin
Welcome! Thank you for your question.So in Wisconsin there is a requirement to return the Security Deposit back to the tenant within 21 days of when they “surrender." Generally, the date of “surrender” is the last day of the Rental Agreement. When the Security Deposit is returned, if any amounts at all are withheld from the deposit, an itemized statement needs to be included that lists specifically each item withheld. Unfortunately missing the 21 day requirement, even by a few days triggers double damages under the Wisconsin statutes. To make matters worse, they are also entitled to recover attorney fees and court costs associated with filing the suit. In some cases attorney fees can dwarf the security deposit. If you want to learn more about this, read Pierce v. Norwick, 202Wis.2d 588 (1996), which is the court case most often used as a precedent on security deposit return issues.
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The law is statutory. Double damages automatically after 21 days, period. It is a cut and dry nasty law. Wish I had better news.
Over 15 years legal experience.
How will the double damages be calculated? Renters had a $2600 sec deposit. I used $1300 for unpaid utility, rent and repair bills and returned $1300.
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