What to do if my former tenant is demanding return of their security deposit but there were damages?

UPDATED: Jul 2, 2012

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What to do if my former tenant is demanding return of their security deposit but there were damages?

Tenant has recently moved out and upon doing a walk-through, there is alot of damage to townhome. I sent him a letter stating I would not return the security deposit due to damage to walls and carpet (the walls and carpets were streaked w/black soot from burning incense, candles and not replacing filter in furnace which he was supposed to do). He sent a letter back that the damage falls under normal wear and tear, which I know it does not. In his letter it states tht I need to return his deposit within 8 days of letter. Do I need to respond to this letter at all?

Asked on July 2, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If your notice (the letter you sent) to the tenant *itemized* the damage and the cost to repair/replace each line item, totalled that sum, then showed mathematically that the deposit was used up by these items--in addition to stating verbally that the deposit would not be returned for damage--then you should not have to respond. If the tenant believes you wrongfully withheld his deposit, he can attempt to sue you (e.g. in small claims court) and you can defend your action by showing evidence (photos; quotes, estimates, or proposals to repair; bills and receipts for materials and labor) that proves that you were justified.

If you have not yet itemized the damage as above, including the costs to repair/replace, then do so in your response. Make sure that the cost for materials and *outside* labor to correct the conditions equals or exceeds the deposit, if you are withholding the whole deposit--damage or conditions that, although distressing, do not require much in the way of out-of-pocket costs to correct will not justify withholding a deposit.

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