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Richard, Lawyer
Category: Real Estate Law
Satisfied Customers: 55598
Experience:  32 years of experience as lawyer in Texas. I'm also a Real Estate developer.
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Landlord refunded less than half the deposit after 6 weeks

Customer Question

Landlord refunded less than half the deposit after 6 weeks of moving out. The charges are baseless. What option do I have?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Real Estate Law
Expert:  Richard replied 1 year ago.

Hi! My name is ***** ***** I look forward to helping you.

Can you tell me how much money was withheld? Thanks.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi. Security deposit $955. Withheld $550.
burned/scratched 350
shampoo 125
kitchen & bathroom 75
Expert:  Richard replied 1 year ago.

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: . 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.

Thank you so much for allowing me to help you with your questions. I have done my best to provide information which fully addresses your question. If you have any follow up questions, please ask! If I have fully answered your question(s) to your satisfaction, I would appreciate you rating my service as OK, Good or Excellent (hopefully Good or Excellent). Otherwise, I receive no credit for assisting you today. I thank you in advance for taking the time to provide me a positive rating!

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Should I deposit the current check I have for balance amount?
If I go to small claims court, what are the changes of getting the remaining amount back?
As per state law they are supposed to return the money within 2-3 weeks. Is a strong case now that its been 6 weeks?
Expert:  Richard replied 1 year ago.

Yes, you can cash the current check and sue for the balance. Yes, since he missed the deadline, you should easily prevail. :)

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks :)
Expert:  Richard replied 1 year ago.

You're very welcome. It's been my honor and privilege to help you with this. If I can help you in any way in the future, I'll be happy to help. For easy access, my bookmark is: . Or, simply request “Richard only” in the first line of your question.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
What do you mean by punitive charges? What amount would be considered appropriate?
Expert:  Richard replied 1 year ago.

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."

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
As per Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, Inc. (A Non-Profit Law Firm and Community Education Organization)How Do I Object to the Amount Withheld?
If the tenant disagrees with the landlord's deductions from the security deposit, the tenant must object in writing to the itemized damages within 10 days of receipt of the landlord's itemized list of damages. If the tenant receives a check for a partial refund of the security deposit and objects to the deductions from the security deposit, the tenant should not cash or deposit the check in her bank account because it might prevent the tenant from recovering the full amount of the deposit. Instead, the tenant should promptly photocopy the check and send it back to the landlord along with a letter objecting to the amount withheld and requesting that the landlord return the full amount.
Expert:  Richard replied 1 year ago.

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.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Okay. Does it make sense to write a letter to the landlord objecting the charges or disputing directly in the court of law?
Expert:  Richard replied 1 year ago.

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.

Expert:  Richard replied 1 year ago.

I just wanted to let you know that I am signing off for the evening.. Should you have a follow up while I’m away, I will address it immediately upon my return in the morning. Thank you in advance for your patience. I apologize for any inconvenience.