Trying to Get Security Deposit Back

(WSVN) - You might say, “That happened to me.” As your lease is expiring, your landlord decides to keep part or all of your security deposit. You say, “I deserve it all back.” How do you get it? Here are the answers in tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

When Sharon first saw the house on Miami Beach, she thought, “This will work for our family.”

Sharon Beck, battling over security deposit: “I said location is perfect for us, it has a pool; my kids would love swimming. It seemed like a good fit.”

Then she started talking to her neighbors who said be careful of the landlord.

Sharon Beck: “I was told she’s difficult. There is a pattern there, I don’t know if that’s the house you should be taking.”

But Sharon and her husband decided they could tolerate a pesky landlord.

So they signed the lease, paid the large $9,700 deposit the landlord wanted and soon discovered their neighbors were right.

Sharon Beck: “She’s very unreasonable.”

For example, the landlord wanted to occasionally walk through the house.

Sharon Beck: “To her, it was normal to have inspections into the middle of the year, for whatever reason.”

For nearly two years, the Becks dealt with their landlord. Then with the lease expiring, they decided to move on. And before they even moved out, the landlord started complaining again.

Sharon Beck: “She accused us of excessive cooking. I have four children, they eat. Thank God they’re healthy. She said we cooked too much and that’s why there is excessive wear and tear.”

Sharon was not surprised at what came next.

Sharon Beck: “She told my husband over the phone she does not intend to return any security money.”

Facing the loss of her $9,700 deposit, Sharon called us. We asked Joseph Hughes, a real estate litigation attorney, to keep an eye on Sharon’s situation in case they had to sue the landlord.

Joseph S. Hughes, real estate litigation: “First document the condition of the property before moving out. Take lots of pictures. Have family members and friends present. Preferably that should be conducted in the presence of the landlord.”

Sharon did, even videotaping the landlord and her inspectors as they checked out the house.

Sharon Beck: “Outrageous numbers. She wants $2,000 for flooring and $1,000 for this.”

Hughes was not surprised because many tenants face the same thing.

Joseph S. Hughes: “One out of four people don’t get their rent deposit backs.”

Well Howard, as Hughes keeps an eye on the Becks’ security deposit, what would you tell renters getting ready to move out?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “You need to know what you are and are not responsible to pay for. If a refrigerator stops working, if the carpet has worn thin, that’s what normal wear and tear is and you don’t have to pay for that. But if you leave holes in the wall, break a door, that’s not normal and the repairs can be deducted from your security deposit.”

After the Becks did everything Joseph suggested, the landlord offered to return $7,290 and wanting to keep $2,409.

How much should the Becks get?

Joseph S. Hughes: “In my opinion, all of it.”

We spoke to the landlord and she disagrees. Joseph says he now plans to sue in court. And he says it will be up to the landlord to prove the Becks damaged the house.

Joseph S. Hughes: “Proving damage beyond normal wear and tear means showing before and after pictures. You know, this damage could have been pre-existing and not the responsibility of the tenant.

Sharon Beck: “When we left the house, it was in perfect condition.”

The Becks have moved into their new home and hope to win in court to move their security deposit from their landlords account to their pocket.

Sharon Beck: “Just because you are holding on to the money doesn’t mean you get to keep it.”

We will be there if they go to court and if Hughes and Sharon win, the landlord has to pay her attorney’s fees. Of course, if your security deposit is less than $5,000, you can sue by yourself in small claims court.

Now there are a few more details you need to be aware of when trying to get your security deposit back. Rather than rattle them off, we have the links below this Help Me Howard story.

Rented a problem that seems to own you? Ready for a new lease on life? Deposit it with us, so we can provide some legal security — at no cost to you.


Landlord Tenant Information

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN

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