Do I have to legally sue a my subleasee in order to keep her security deposit due to damages?

UPDATED: Aug 27, 2012

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Do I have to legally sue a my subleasee in order to keep her security deposit due to damages?

I sublet a bedroom in a house for the past 4 months and will be moving in next month. I have a small security deposit from my tenant but she broke some rules and left some damages. The bedroom reeks of smoke (lease prohibits smoking) and must be steam cleaned, a huge gash in a wall, and a broken screen door handle. To legally keep part of her deposit for repairs, must I sue her or take her to small claims court or something?

Asked on August 27, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Michigan


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First, I hope that the sublet was legal to beign with.  Many leases prohibit same.  Assuming it was then you need to act as a landlord here and follow the law in Michigan to a "T."  Within 30 days of the date your tenant moves out, you must send you an itemized list of any deductions claimed and the remainder of your tenant's deposit, or the full deposit if no charges are taken out.  If you do not meet this 30-day requirement, you technically lose all claims to the security deposit and must return it in full, unless the withheld money is for past rent that is due.

The notice listing any deductions from your deposit must include in boldface type the warning: "You must respond to this notice by mail within 7 days after receipt of same, otherwise you will forfeit the amount claimed for damages."    She will challenge the with holding I am sure and you may end up in small claims anyway.  So please:  take pictures and the lease and any other evidence you may need.  Good luck.


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