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landlord didn't return the security deposit within 30 days

Discussion in 'Other Residential Landlord & Tenant Issues' started by ilyashv, Oct 21, 2008.

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  1. ilyashv

    ilyashv Law Topic Starter New Member

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    My jurisdiction is: PA

    Our landlord didn't return to us our security deposit within 30 days from the lease termination and, according to Pennsylvania law, owes us double the security deposit. He admits that, but now says that we are responsible for a flooding accident caused by our children a few months before the end of lease, although the building is insured. I am pretty sure that he collected the insurance money already, but found an excuse not to return our money back to us. Here is what I found on the web: Pennsylvania Security Deposit Law, Section 250.512

    (a) Every landlord shall within thirty days of termination of a lease or upon surrender and acceptance of the leasehold premises, whichever first occurs, provide a tenant with a written list of any damages to the leasehold premises for which the landlord claims the tenant is liable. Delivery of the list shall be accompanied by payment of the difference between any sum deposited in escrow, including any unpaid interest thereon, for the payment of damages to the leasehold premises and the actual amount of damages to the leasehold premises caused by the tenant. Nothing in this section shall preclude the landlord from refusing to return the escrow fund, including any unpaid interest thereon, for nonpayment of rent or for the breach of any other condition in the lease by the tenant.
    (b) Any landlord who fails to provide a written list within thirty days as required in subsection (a), above, shall forfeit all rights to withhold any portion of sums held in escrow, including any unpaid interest thereon, or to bring suit against the tenant for damages to the leasehold premises.
    (c) If the landlord fails to pay the tenant the difference between the sum deposited, including any unpaid interest thereon, and the actual damages to the leasehold premises caused by the tenant within thirty days after termination of the lease or surrender and acceptance of the leasehold premises, the landlord shall be liable in assumpsit to double the amount by which the sum deposited in escrow, including any unpaid interest thereon, exceeds the actual damages to the leasehold premises caused by the tenant as determined by any court of record or court not of record having jurisdiction in civil actions at law. The burden of proof of actual damages caused by the tenant to the leasehold premises shall be on the landlord.


    Can someone help us how to interpret parts (b) and (c) simultaneously? Does he owe us double the security deposit now? May he deduct any amount from it (he hasn't contacted us for over 30 days after the termination of the lease)? If he can, can he charge us for the flooding damage of an insured building?
     
  2. Gail_in_Georgia

    Gail_in_Georgia Moderator

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    Section b covers that if the security deposit (or the written list of damages) is not provided to the tenant within the required time period (30 days), the landlord loses the ability to file against the tenant for any damages that took place during the rental period.

    Section c covers the fact that even if he notifies you that part of your security deposit is being held for damages within the required time period yet fails to return any amount left over (plus interest) by the 30 day requirement he can be held liable for double the remainder of the deposit.

    Because he did not notify you either way within the required time period, he has no standing in court to now say you are financially reponsible for the flooding incident.

    You are likely going to have to file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court to get your security deposit from him. The judge will determine whether he is liable for double the amount of the security deposit.

    Gail
     
  3. ilyashv

    ilyashv Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thank you for your advice. Does part (b) imply that that the landlord owes us at least the amount equal to the security deposit?
     
  4. Gail_in_Georgia

    Gail_in_Georgia Moderator

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    Yep.

    IF what he returned was late by only a few days (and remember this date is determined by the postmark, not by the date the former tenant actually received it) it's unlikely the judge would grant the double security deposit amount.

    If it was considerably later, they're more likely to.

    Gail
     
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  5. ilyashv

    ilyashv Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I am sorry for bothering you again, but I would like to have a clear picture of what we are entitled to before we go to court.
    The landlord hasn't provided us with a list of damages within 30 days and neither did he return the money till today. It was not until we contacted him a month and a week after we moved that he told us that the damage we cause by flooding exceeds double the security deposit and that we, actually, owe him. (As I mentioned, the building is insured and the insurence company doesn't have a problem covering the damage). Do I understand correctly that
    (a) He owes us the security deposit (single) in any case and we are "safe" suing him for it;
    (b) If we sue him for double deposit, he may claim that we caused damage to the building, and he'll have to return us some amount between single and double deposit as decided by the judge?

    Thanks again.
     
  6. Gail_in_Georgia

    Gail_in_Georgia Moderator

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    a) yep

    b) He can claim whatever he wishes. According the the law you cited in your initial posting, when the landlord failed to comply with the required time limit for providing you information/returning all or a portion of the security deposit he negated his ability to claim or sue you for any damages to the rental unit.

    Gail
     
  7. David21

    David21 New Member

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    Landlord failure to provide security with list w/in 30 days

    Gail is wrong regarding return of the security deposit just a few days beyond the 30 day period. PA courts are very strict in applying the 30 day rule because (i) the double damages/forfeiture of rights to damages provisions is intended to ensure that landlords provide the security deposit within the 30 day period and (ii) the 30 day period is viewed as ample time. If you search for cases under 250.512 you will see that judges apply the provision even if the security is sent just a few days beyond the 30 day period.

    Regarding the measuring date, neither the statute nor any cases indicate whether postmark date or receipt date should be used. In other areas of law (contract law generally, many tax filings, etc.) postmark date is used to measure compliance with a date restriction so a court might use postmark date here too, but this is not certain.

    Remember that under the statute you are entitled to either double the security minus damages or full security without damages. However, courts are very pro tenant and have even provided the double damage recovery without deductions for damages. One court applied the PA unfair trade practices law to provide for treble damages. If the amounts are substantial or the landlord's conduct is egregious you should be very aggressive in seeking recovery. Security deposits are the property of the tenant over which a landlord merely has possession and the burden of proof of damages in on the landlord. Good luck
     
  8. Gail_in_Georgia

    Gail_in_Georgia Moderator

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    All of this depends on the particular judge who hears the case.

    Considering the initial posting is almost a year old we'll likely never know what the OP decided to do.

    Gail
     
  9. David21

    David21 New Member

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    No. It does not depend on the particular judge. The 30 day rule is a matter of law. If a lower court judge decided not to apply the statute as written the tenant could appeal to a higher court and win. There is clear precedent and a clear statute that an appellate court would not ignore.
     
  10. johnnydinger

    johnnydinger New Member

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    Hi, I'm in a similar situation, whereby i sent my lanlord a letter stating I would give them a further 10 days (I didnt receieve anything within 30 days) to payback the full amount. last night i receievd a phone call saying the check and a list of deductions were sent 10 days ago with a certified mail number. i checked the number and it says mail was 'missent' and the item was misrouted. Where do i stand? Is it their responsibilty to check their certified mail has arrived? and resend if necassary? how will this be viewed in small claims court as they are making deduction for cleaning etc which we will be challenging. I've never been to small claims court so am seeking some advice.

    Thanks

    john
     
  11. Gail_in_Georgia

    Gail_in_Georgia Moderator

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    So..are they going to now resend this information to you? If so, are you willing to wait for this information or do you wish to go ahead and file a lawsuit?

    Gail
     
  12. johnnydinger

    johnnydinger New Member

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    Aparantly its been sitting in the post office for the last 12 days so I'll get it tomorrow to see what amount my landlord has deducted and the strength of the case against their deductions as there were no damages when we left and we spent about 4 hours cleaning the place.

    Thanks for the reply
     

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