July 10, 2018

Security Deposits –Giving (or Getting) it Back | LANDLORD-TENANT LAW UPDATE

Security Deposits –Giving (or Getting) it Back  

In this week’s case, we have a tenant who is trying to get back their security deposit. But the landlord wants to keep some of it for repairs. What does the tenant have to do to get the security returned? What does the landlord have to do to keep it?

In New York, one thing is clear: the security deposit is the tenant's, not the landlord's, money. The landlord is merely holding the deposit "in trust" for the tenant, and it must be returned at the end of the tenancy.

Unless, that is, it can be proven that the tenant caused damage beyond what would be considered normal or ordinary wear and tear.

In court, a tenant must prove the following:

  1. The tenant paid a security deposit to the landlord.
  2. The tenant caused no damage to the apartment beyond ordinary wear and tear.
  3. The tenant made a demand for the return of the security deposit.
  4. The landlord refused to return the security deposit.

Prove that, and the tenant gets the full deposit returned.

But if the landlord proves:

  1. The tenant caused damage to the property beyond ordinary wear and tear. 
  2. Then prove what cost was incurred (or is estimated to incur) in order to remediate the extraordinary damage caused by the tenant.

The landlord will be entitled to recover those costs.

In this case, the landlord claimed there was grease on, under and in the stove; the rugs had different hues due to stains caused by the tenants; there was a lift in the vinyl covering on the porch; window blinds were broken; the pantry area, refrigerator, shower, and bathtub were not cleaned; some of the doors were damaged; the removal of wallpaper installed by the tenants caused damage to some of the walls; and locks were missing on some windows.

The Court found that all the items listed were examples of ordinary wear and tear, and directed the landlord to return the deposit in full.

Here is the case: http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2018/2018_28204.htm

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