If we recently had a tenant leave and kept half of the security deposit because of the condition of the house/property, does he have any recourse?

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If we recently had a tenant leave and kept half of the security deposit because of the condition of the house/property, does he have any recourse?

We had quite a bit of damage (holes in walls, damage to pool, cabinets and drawers full of stuff, broken furniture, dirty oven, house dirty, etc). The tenant is complaining and I am wondering what his recourse is. We sent him the balance of the security deposit, and after holding it for a couple weeks, he finally cashed the check. We wrote on the bottom of the check “balance of security deposit, final payment.” Are we protected or can he fight this?

Asked on August 17, 2011 Connecticut

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

First of all, unfortunately any notation written then a memo line of a check has no legal significance. You can write whatever you want, it means nothing in court.

As for the return of a tenant's security deposit, CT law is specific. A landlord can deduct rent owed from a security deposit, as well as deduct the costs of repairing damage that a tenant or their guests caused (a landlord cannot keep a deposit for normal wear and tear to the rental). However, the landlord must give the tenant a written itemized list of any damages that they believe was caused by the tenant/guests. The statement must list the damage and the actual or estimated cost of repair.

The security deposit, plus interest, or the itemized letter (and any security deposit and interest that's left) must be returned/sent within 30 days after a tenant moves out.

Note: If a tenant wait more than 15 days after they move out to give their landlord a forwarding address in writing, then the landlord has 15 days from when they were given the address to return the deposit or send the written statement.

For its part, a tenant can: make a complaint to the State Banking Department if their landlord failed to provide an itemized list within the prescribed time period, or they can sue in small claims court if they disagree with what the landlord deducted.  

So just be sure to keep any pictures of the damage receipts for repair costs (or at least estimates), cleaning bills, etc. You may need to show this as proof of your claim.


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