If I haven’t yet moved into an apartment, how do I get my money back?

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If I haven’t yet moved into an apartment, how do I get my money back?

I was told to pay a security deposit of $420 to receive a lease agreement and keys to a house and pay my first month rent (2 months from now). The money was paid and now I’m being instructed to pay my first month rent now in order to receive the keys and lease agreement. I requested my money back and he agreed to do it and asked how would I like to receive it. I said through Western Union but now he says it can’t be refunded.

Asked on December 22, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Ohio

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A security deposit is to cover damages caused as a result of a tenant's occupancy of the premises. If you never moved in, then there are no such damages.  Accordingly, your deposit should be returned (at least in theory).

However, this doesn't mean that you are completely off the hook here. Since a valid lease was executed, to the extent that the unit remains vacant (ie until the landlord can re-rent it), you owe your landlord rent. However, they are under a duty to "mitigate damages". That means that they must make a good faith effort to find a replacemnt tenant. Since they have about 6 weeks, you may end up owing no money if a new tenant is found. Bottom line, you may get your deposit back (in full or in part) at such time as the rental premises is re-rented but not before then.


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