Can my security deposit be withheld without notice for something that happened a year ago?

UPDATED: Aug 1, 2011

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Can my security deposit be withheld without notice for something that happened a year ago?

I just moved out of my old apartment and was just notified that they are keeping the security deposit because of something that happened last year that they knew about. Our air conditioner had apparently been leaking into their apartment below us and did some water damage to their walls. They were well aware of this when it happened, and decided to tell us just now that they are keeping the security deposit for that reason. Do they have the right to do that when they knew a whole year ago that it was going to cost this and not tell us?

Asked on August 1, 2011 New York


MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Here is the issue: what is your security deposit used for? Security deposits are used typically for first and last month's rent and of course to take care of damages that can occur in your unit that you case or for reasonable repairs. The landlord must show that an itemized list to you within a very short amount of time of what the security deposit will be used for to fix and the like. The itemized list must include the costs and upon request, actual receipts and the like. Here, if the air conditioner was leaking into the unit below, and the landlords knew about it a year ago, then you need to find out if the landlords mitigated their damages by fixing the air conditioner in your unit and making any necessary repairs to stop additional damage. If the landlords did not stop the additional damage or make necessary repairs in a timely manner and had the opportunity to do so, then you can use this point against them when questioning how much of your security deposit they plan on keeping. Next, if the landlords did not provide you with the itemized list in a timely manner (set by statute, which is different in each state), they actually may be liable to you for much more than your initial security deposit paid to them.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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