Do I need to formally dispute an erroneous claim made by my landlord before filing suit for the return of my deposit?

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Do I need to formally dispute an erroneous claim made by my landlord before filing suit for the return of my deposit?

I sent a letter to demand the return of my security deposit to my landlord 30 days after vacating the property. I fulfilled my lease, provided an accepted verbal notice of non-renewal, left the property in excellent condition, and vacated on the 1st day of the month as required, turning over the keys to the property manager, in person on the 1st. In response I received a letter from the landlord’s attorney stating that I occupied the premises until the 4th and therefore they were not required to provide an itemized list of deductions and that I am still owe rent. This is false and I can prove it. I feel this is a tactic to avoid being found to have acted in bad faith, in which case they are responsible to return 3 times the amount of the deposit wrongfully withheld as provided under TX state law. Do I need to formally dispute this claim before I proceed in filing suit for return of my deposit? Are they further liable for making this false claim if I can clearly prove that they we’re aware that it’s false?

Asked on October 18, 2010 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

You seem to have done your homework on this matter.  Here are my concerns with what you have written:  does your lease state that verbal notice was acceptable?  Was the tenancy from the 1st of the month?  Then shouldn't you have vacated BEFORE the first of the month?  Assuming that you notified properly and vacated properly, what is your proof of turning over the keys on the first?  Hopefully it is written receipt of the keys by the property manager.  The best person for you to ask these questions of is an attorney in your area who can review the documents in question and let you know your odds in court.  It does not appear that you have to do anything else here since you gave the 30 days notice of intent to leave and your forwarding address - I hope as this is required on your part - but check to make sure.  Good luck.   


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