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How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on April 25, 2011 6:46 AM

Security deposits are part of rental life, but that doesn't mean that they aren't the bane of every renter's existence.

It's rare that a tenant doesn't have security deposit landlord issues, with delays and too many deductions.

If you're currently having (or want to prepare for) security deposit problems, this is what you need to know about landlord disputes over security deposits.

Every state has a specific deadline for how long a landlord may hold a tenant's security deposit after he has moved out.

Within that time limit--normally 14 to 60 days--the landlord must mail the security deposit, plus any applicable interest and an itemized list of all deductions made for cleaning, repairs and unpaid rent.

If you're having security deposit landlord issues, chances are that your landlord has either deducted more than normal wear and tear, has wrongfully deducted past due rent, or just hasn't sent the money at all.

The first step in recovering your security deposit is to simultaneously send a letter (keep a copy) and make a phone call to your ex-landlord requesting your security deposit. Give him a few days to respond.

If the polite route is ineffective, you have the right to take your ex-landlord to small claims court.

Small claims courts typically have a maximum recoverable limit of $7,500 and don't permit parties to be represented by attorneys. Small claims judges are generally understanding, and as long as you bring evidence of your claims, you should be able to effectively present your case.

Should you win in small claims court, your ex-landlord must pay your security deposit and any court fees. If he fails to do so, you can always file papers to have the sheriff collect the judgment for you.

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