How To Sue Your Landlord For Deposit And Win

iEditorial Note: These blog posts represent the opinion of DoNotPay’s Writers, but each person’s situation and circumstances vary greatly. As a result, you should make sure to do your own independent research. Because everyone is unique, our self-help tools are never guaranteed to help with any specific situation. DoNotPay is not a law firm and is not licensed to practice law. DoNotPay provides a platform for legal information and self-help.

How To Sue Landlord For Deposit Without A Lawyer

Most landlords are decent people. In return for your monthly rent, they work hard to ensure your unit is habitable. And they pay some significant costs —like property insurance, property taxes, tree removal, pest control — to maintain a rental unit.

But some landlords are cut from a wholly different cloth. There are wicked slum-lords out there, slimy landlords who will do anything to keep a few extra dollars. And if you’re dealing with one of these, can help.

This article explores how to sue your landlord to get your deposit back. We’ll start with an understanding of security deposits. Then we’ll talk about small claims court and how you can use DoNotPay to fight back.

What Security Deposits Do / Don’t Cover

Security deposits exist to protect the landlord from extra costs, beyond “normal wear and tear.” While every state has a slightly different understanding of normal wear and tear, the table below illustrates some common points.

Examples of Normal Wear and TearCosts Beyond Normal Wear and Tear (covered by your security deposit)
  • A new carpet after a few years
  • Carpet cleaning between tenants
  • Fresh paint every few years
  • Structural damage associated with weather events like hurricanes or blizzards
  • Unreported damage of any kind
  • Furniture moving and storage
  • Hazardous material cleanup (associated with a meth lab)
  • Broken appliances that belong to the property, which should be in good condition
  • Broken glass that you didn’t report

Sometimes, a landlord may try to keep your security deposit for no reason at all! It feels like they’re just being nasty. But they’re counting on you to be ignorant of your rights, or insecure about your ability to get that deposit back.

Non-lawful excuses your landlord might try include:

  • You’re breaking a lease, staying past your lease end-date, refusing to sign a new lease with higher rent
  • You’re being evicted
  • You paid rent late, or missed rent payments
  • You’re too noisy, or disturb the neighbors

None of those excuses will fly in court. Remember, your landlord can only keep a deposit to pay for damage beyond normal wear and tear. If you bring a pet into the home without permission, and it causes damage, you will likely lose your deposit.

Take Your Landlord to Small Claims Court by Yourself

Small claims court exists for issues like this. Start by gathering your documents. You will need:

  • Your lease (if you have one)
  • Proof that you paid a deposit, a canceled check or bank statement will do
  • Proof there’s no horrible damage to the apartment caused by you, cell phone photos will do
  • Proof that you reported any other issues to the landlord (like mold, or pests)

Then follow these steps to sue your landlord for a deposit:

  1. Head to your local small claims court. It might be a county or city building.
  2. File the forms for small claims (there will be a fee, ranging from $50 to $200 usually)
  3. Serve your landlord with papers (you can hire someone if you’re not comfortable doing this, but it must happen)
  4. Wait for your court date
  5. Attend court and provide your evidence to the judge

All you need to do is prove that you didn’t cause any extra or unusual damage to the property. Then the judge will order your landlord to pay your deposit back.

Sue Your Landlord (or Anyone) with DoNotPay

DoNotPay has a Sue Now product that will walk you through the process of suing anyone in small claims court.

If you want to avoid all this hassle, remember that you can break a lease lawfully with DoNotPay.

You can Break a Lease Using DoNotPay

If you want to break a lease, but don't know where to start, has you covered in four easy steps:

  1. Search for and open the Landlord Protection product on DoNotPay.
  2. Select which issue applies to you.
  3. Answer a simple set of questions so our chatbot can collect the necessary information to create your demand letter.
  4. Choose whether you want DoNotPay to send the demand letter to your landlord or roommate on your behalf. If you already tried sending a demand letter and it didn't work, we can help you start the small claims court process.

And that's it! Once the demand letter is sent, you should hear back from your landlord without having to start a case in small claims court. But that’s not all you can do with the app.

It’s Like Having a Lawyer in Your Family

DoNotPay can help you solve all kinds of problems. Maybe you need to kick out your roommate. Or perhaps you need to report a shady landlord to the local housing authority that handles Section 8. And that’s only the beginning. Any time you feel like a landlord is taking advantage of you, make DoNotPay your first resource.

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