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Lucy, Esq.
Lucy, Esq., Attorney
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This is a New York State Deposit Return question for a

Customer Question

This is a New York State Deposit Return question for a property with less than 6 units.
45 days have passed since the lease terminated...Landlord has made no attempt to return the deposit....not sure if the deposit is held in a separate checking account or co-mingled with other funds...my thought is that it is co-mingledQuestion--
If the deposit funds are never attempted to be returned or never accounted for versus damages by the landlord post lease termination (straight out stealing), what is built into the New York State rental statutes as far a monetary penalties due to the renter (double or say treble damages) post a successful court judgement? Is there a potentiality of criminal charges for an outright intention to never return the deposit?If there are no penalties built into the statutes, why would any landlord ever attempt to return a deposit?Finally how does the lack of separating the deposit funds into separate accounts potentially affect whether a landlord can be precluded from claiming any damages to be applied against the security deposit.
Submitted: 1 month ago.
Category: Landlord-Tenant
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 month ago.

Hi,

I'm Lucy, and I'd be happy to answer your questions today.

New York is one of the states that doesn't have specific laws on when a landlord must return a security deposit. As a result, there is unfortunately no provision for double or treble damages like some other states have. The landlord of a property with fewer than 6 units isn't required to put the money into an interest-bearing account. What they are required to do is account for the deposit or return it within a reasonable time. Thirty days is generally considered reasonable.

Failure to return a deposit is not a crime, but the landlord can be sued for breach of contract and required to return it. The reason for them to do it on their own is both to save the time they'd spend going to court and to avoid having to reimburse tenants for their filing fees and post-judgment interest.

Since it's been more than a month and a half and you haven't gotten the deposit back, your recourse is to file a lawsuit against the landlord. These cases are usually brought in Small Claims Court, which is also called the Town and Village Court in some NY counties. The website for your local county court should have forms you can fill out to open a case. They should also have forms in the courthouse if you'd prefer not to have to print them out.

If you have any questions or concerns about my response, please reply WITHOUT RATING. It's important that you are 100% satisfied with my courtesy and professionalism. Otherwise, please rate my service positively so I am paid for the time I spend answering questions. If you are on a mobile device, you may need to scroll to the right. There is no charge for follow-up questions. Thank you.

Customer: replied 1 month ago.
I still don't think you addressed the issue of "co-mingling of deposit funds"...I am not worried about the funds not being held in an interest bearing account...I wanted you to address the statute or common law rulings which might preclude a New York State landlord from offsetting a deposit versus damages (even if damages exist) if he failed to keep the deposit funds "separated and in escrow" for the benefit of the renter vs just depositing them in his general usage account
Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 month ago.

I apologize. I did not mention that because there is no such law. Again, there are some states that heavily regulate security deposits, but New York is not one of them.

You can absolutely sue if you did not get your deposit back, and the landlord must prove that you either owed rent when you moved out or damaged the property. But there aren't any NY laws that provide for automatic forfeiture or damages beyond the deposit itself + filing fee reimbursement.

Expert:  Lucy, Esq. replied 1 month ago.

Do you have any other questions about this?

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