Real Estate Law
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Can you tell me how much money was withheld? Thanks.
Thank you! You do have recourse. File a claim in small claims court (Justice of the Peace court in Delaware) asking not only for the amount of the deposit wrongfully withheld, but also punitive damages due to the fact the landlord withheld it in bad faith. You can file this case without a lawyer. The following link will guid you and give you access to the proper forms: http://courts.delaware.gov/jpcourt/ . Filing the suit will give you the collection options and leverage you need to collect the debt owed you. That's because once the suit is filed and a judgment awarded, you become a judgment creditor, and if he doesn’t then pay the judgment, you can have the sheriff serve a summons on him for a debtor examination. That forces him to meet you in court again and answer questions under oath about his assets. After that information is obtained, you have the power to garnish wages, attach bank accounts, have the sheriff seize other personal property, and/or place liens on any non-homestead property he owns to satisfy the judgment.
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Yes, you can cash the current check and sue for the balance. Yes, since he missed the deadline, you should easily prevail. :)
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Punitive damages constitute a penalty for acting in bad faith. The applicable Delaware statute regarding how much would be awarded is as follows:
Delaware Code Annotated Title 25 § 5514
g) Penalties. —
(1) Failure to remit the security deposit or the difference between the security deposit and the amount set forth in the list of damages within 20 days from the expiration or termination of the rental agreement shall entitle the tenant to double the amount wrongfully withheld."
It is often recommended the check not be cashed, but cashing the check is not going to preclude you from pursuing your case. It is recommended because it shows you never agreed to the landlord's assessment, but it is not determinative.
Yes, send the demand letter as you may be able to resolve it without the suit. If the demand letter doesn't work, then file your suit.
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