What can I do if my landlord will not return my security deposit?

UPDATED: Jun 13, 2015

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What can I do if my landlord will not return my security deposit?

I had moved into an apartment 10 months ago and it was found to be illegal. I was informed of this 6 weeks ago and was then told that I had to vacate the apartment by the end of last month. My landlord is saying that he is using the security deposit for the last month’s rent . Can he do this? T here is alot more to this story but they don’t give enough space to go into everything.

Asked on June 13, 2015 under Real Estate Law, New York


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 7 years ago | Contributor

Did you pay your last month's rent? If you did not, the landlord is allowed to apply the security deposit to the amount you owe for the rent--paying unpaid rent when the tenant moves out is one of the purposes for a security deposit. If you did pay your last months' rent, then the landlord may not take it out of the security deposit as well, since then he'd be paid the rent twice. In this case, he could only withhold the deposit if you (or your family or guests) caused damage to the unit, in which case he could hold onto an amount of the deposit equal to the cost to repair the damage.

If there was no unpaid rent and no damage, you should have received the deposit back. If you did not, you may sue the landlord, such as in small claims court (e.g. acting as your own attorney, or "pro se") to recover the money.

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