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  1. #1
    slj32 is offline Junior Member
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    Default Landlord hasn't returned security deposit

    Hi everyone! I'm new but lived in Philly for 7 years until this summer.

    So here's my problem: I moved out of my apartment on June 30th, and sent my landlord my forwarding address in a letter and in a voicemail a month before I moved (in May). I had not had any problems with the landlord previously. I sent my rent every month early, cleaned the place meticulously before vacating, and made sure he had my contact info in case he needed anything from me. Our interactions were always perfectly friendly. It is now August 10th and I have no security deposit and no communication at all about it, not even a list of deductions. Nothing at all.

    On August 2nd I mailed a certified letter, stating again my new address and saying that I hadn't received my security deposit within 30 days. On the 5th I called him again and left a voicemail verbally stating my new address and alerting him of the letter I had sent. On August 7th he accepted the certified letter. The mail has come and gone today and still no call back, no communication at all, and no security deposit - I'm in Pittsburgh so the maximum transit time is two days.

    I'm almost completely out of hope that he will return it on his own. It's looking like I will eventually end up in small claims court.

    Is there a certain procedure I should follow before filing? Is there a certain time period I should wait before filing? I know that in Pennsylvania I'm now entitled to sue for double the security, which I certainly will if I have to take off of work and drive all the way back to Philly to go to court. I do plan on calling him in a few more days and letting him know of my rights to sue for double and that I would just like the check for the original amount from him instead.

    Thoughts? Advice?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
    palvar's Avatar
    palvar is offline Senior Member
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    Sadly, I always assume that I will lose my security deposit - maybe others have had better experiences.

  3. #3
    Sharkfood is offline Senior Member
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    He's required by law to either return the security deposit or send a letter setting forth any deductions within 30 days of the end of your lease.

    If he doesn't do so, then he loses his right to take the deductions.

  4. #4
    yawns is offline Senior Member
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    This is a common scam among landlords. UC Housing still has my deposit from 1998.

  5. #5
    Sycamore is offline Sure Shot
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    I would file immediately.

  6. #6
    slj32 is offline Junior Member
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    I'm going to try to call him one last time tomorrow and tell him that I'm going to file. Maybe if he hears it he will just send out the check. This really sucks - don't know how I'm going to find the time to get to Philly and back twice in the upcoming month, but I'm not willing to lose that money so I will do what I have to do.

  7. #7
    ArcticSplash's Avatar
    ArcticSplash is offline Dixie Normus
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    Quote Originally Posted by palvar View Post
    Sadly, I always assume that I will lose my security deposit - maybe others have had better experiences.
    HOW TO FILE A LANDLORD/TENANT CLAIM AT PHILADELPHIA MUNICIPAL COURT (CLICK HERE)
    Municipal Court - Civil Division @ The Philadelphia Courts - First Judicial District of Pennsylvania


    You can't file until after 30 whole days on the date the lease has expired.

    That means if your lease expired on Jan 1 2010, then if by the morning of Jan 31 2010 the landlord has not returned the deposit, he is in violation of both the Pennsylvania and Philadelphia Fair Housing Code.


    You provide this upon notifying the landlord that you are no longer continuing the lease:
    • Written notification of your forwarding address to the landlord. Oral notification is not sufficient. Most people would send this by postal mail to their landlord with the last rent check or as a separate mailing.

    It is best that you provide the forwarding address information to the landlord via Certified Mail. If you wait 20 days and then give it to the landlord, the landlord may not have sufficient time to send the money to you plus a list of what he chose to deduct from your initial deposit.


    You do not have to:
    • Specifically request the security deposit back from the landlord in order to receive a deposit
    • Provide a list of damages to the property in order for the landlord to comply
    • Threaten the landlord with an ITS (Itent To Sue) letter
    • Provide any notification to your landlord that you are awaiting your deposit
    • Request the landlord return the deposit



    I can tell you right now, it looks MUCH better in Philadelphia Municipal Court if you wait the 30 days, then send a Certified Letter, Return Receipt Requested asking for the deposit and that you have waited a full 30 days since ___date here___.

    This lets the Court know that you have given clear warning to the Landlord that you are about to exercise your rights and you have provided plenty of time after your lease expired for him to return your deposit minus any damages.

    If your landlord deducts ALL of the deposit for damages, he must still provide you an invoice showing all the repairs and cost of repairs that he has paid for, OR an estimate from a contractor.

    If he does NOT repair the damage or obtain a paper estimate for damages, that is not sufficient and he must return your whole deposit.


    Take my advice. Don't call the landlord.

    Don't send a regular postal letter to the landlord at the expiration of the lease. Only send him Certified Mail.


    Let me repeat this again, ONLY SEND CERTIFIED LETTERS to the landlord. These are EASY to mail. Just put it in a #10 envelope, go to the post office and ask to send it Certified Mail. It will cost about $2 and some change. Put your CURRENT/NEW address where you want the green card returned on the back of the green card.

    Your landlord will have to sign for the letter at his post office or the mail carrier will ask him to sign when it is delivered. The green card is usable as evidence in civil cases to prove dates and times of communication.

    There is no he said/she said when you have a green card and a copy of the original letter.

    You will receive a green card back in the mail at your new address.

  8. #8
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    peahen is offline Peabrain
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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's PA law that if your landlord doesn't get your money back to you within 30 days, you can sue for double the amount of the deposit:

    Furthermore, if the landlord does not return the difference between your deposit and actual damages within 30 days, you can sue him to recover double the amount that he wrongfully withheld, providing you supplied him with a forwarding address in writing when you moved. If you have not provided a forwarding address in writing, you can still sue your landlord, but only for the original amount. You can sue your landlord in District Justice Court without the need to hire a lawyer.
    Security Deposits

  9. #9
    slj32 is offline Junior Member
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    Thanks everyone. I just got off the phone with Philadelphia Municipal Court and they said I can file through the mail after they email me the documents. Looks like I'm filing. At least I won't have to make two trips, just one for the actual court date. I just went through everything and made a file with all of our correspondence and mail receipts and pulled out my lease and canceled checks for rent and security deposit. I even printed out phone records even though I know they probably won't matter. I'm glad that I at least did everything right along the way and documented it. I don't see how the court can do anything but award me double the deposit now. He's going to wish he had just sent the deposit back when he was supposed to instead of trying to rob a very poor medical student.

  10. #10
    ArcticSplash's Avatar
    ArcticSplash is offline Dixie Normus
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    Quote Originally Posted by peahen View Post
    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it's PA law that if your landlord doesn't get your money back to you within 30 days, you can sue for double the amount of the deposit:



    Security Deposits

    Yes but the double-security deposit only applies if you gave written notice of your new address when you move out. That's why at the end of any lease with a landlord, any communication you make to the landlord should be in Certified Mail.

    It's also best to follow up any ORAL conversation with your landlord with a similar letter sent Certified Mail towards the end of the lease. If your landlord makes any promises that are material to the lease or your deposit, you need to write it down verbatim what he or she promised and then follow-up with a letter repeating what was said.



    Pennsylvania Security Deposits



    PENNSYLVANIA SECURITY DEPOSIT
    Pennsylvania Landlord Tenant Law

    A security deposit is money which actually belongs to the tenant, but is held by the landlord for protection against damages or unpaid rent.

    Pennsylvania law places a limit on the amount of a security deposit that a landlord may charge. During the first year of a lease the landlord may not require a security deposit of more than two months' rent.

    At the beginning of the second year of a lease the landlord may not keep a security deposit equal to more than one month's rent and must return any money over one month's rent which the landlord still has.

    After five years the landlord cannot increase a security deposit even though the monthly rent is increased.

    The Landlord Tenant Act requires that interest be paid on security deposits held over two years.

    After taking out damages and unpaid rent, a landlord or property owner must send its tenants the list of damages and/or the full or partial security deposit no later than 30 days after the lease ends or when the landlord accepts the tenant's keys to vacate the premises early, whichever occurs first. The law requires landlords to pay twice the amount of the security deposit if they fail to provide consumers with the list of damages along with any refund due.

    At the end of the third year the landlord must start giving you the yearly interest that is received from the bank, less a 1 percent fee that the landlord may keep.

    The landlord does not have to pay interest to you during the first two years of the lease. A landlord may put up a bond instead of depositing security deposits in an escrow account. This bond guarantees that you will get back your deposit with interest at the end of the tenancy.

    RETURN OF DEPOSIT: Within 30 days after a tenant moves out, the landlord must give the tenant a written list of any damages.

    Reasonable wear and tear are not damages-and refund the security deposit less the cost of the repairs on the list. If the landlord fails to do this, you cannot be sued for any damages the landlord claims that you caused. In addition, if the landlord does not give you this 30-day notice you may sue for double the amount of your security deposit.

    If you bring this kind of case, though, the landlord is then entitled to have the court deduct the amount of any damages that the landlord can prove you caused from the total judgment. In order to be able to sue for double your deposit, though, you must give your landlord written notice of your new address when you move out. USE OUR FREE - SECURITY DEPOSIT REFUND REQUEST LETTER - from tenant to landlord

    If you have a problem or a dispute with a landlord or any other business, you can call the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection at 1-800-441-2555.

  11. #11
    #1MetsFan's Avatar
    #1MetsFan is offline Senior Member
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    You should also post his name here so everyone else knows to stay away from him.

  12. #12
    ArcticSplash's Avatar
    ArcticSplash is offline Dixie Normus
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    Quote Originally Posted by slj32 View Post
    Thanks everyone. I just got off the phone with Philadelphia Municipal Court and they said I can file through the mail after they email me the documents. Looks like I'm filing. At least I won't have to make two trips, just one for the actual court date. I just went through everything and made a file with all of our correspondence and mail receipts and pulled out my lease and canceled checks for rent and security deposit. I even printed out phone records even though I know they probably won't matter. I'm glad that I at least did everything right along the way and documented it. I don't see how the court can do anything but award me double the deposit now. He's going to wish he had just sent the deposit back when he was supposed to instead of trying to rob a very poor medical student.
    Just because you file suit doesn't necessarily mean that you will win, and just because you win a judgment doesn't mean you will actually get any money.


    There are plenty of deadbeat landlords, most of them absentee, who ignore judgments. [And judgments get entered on the Landlord's credit report!]


    If you get a judgement against your landlord slj, then at this point you WILL need to hire an attorney because you will need to also hunt down your landlord's assets so you can go back to Muni Court and file for an attachment lien to recover the judgement.

  13. #13
    slj32 is offline Junior Member
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    Yep, I sent him my new address prior to moving out via certified mail, and also left him a voicemail about it on the same date. Then sent him the address again after the 30 days were up. I'm covered to sue for double.

  14. #14
    ArcticSplash's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by #1MetsFan View Post
    You should also post his name here so everyone else knows to stay away from him.

    This is not wise. It can also jeopardize the original poster's case.

    I would post it only after the outcome of the muni court case and limit what you say about him/her to what's in your court filings that's public information.


    Pennsylvania is not a completely anti-SLAPP state.

  15. #15
    DebrahAnne is offline Member
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    Default landlord hasn't returned deposit

    I'm in the same boat. I live in Mt. Airy. I was under the impression that you go to the web-site of the Pennsylvania attourney general, and file a claim. That way you don't need to pay all of your money out to a lawyer. Has anyone ever done this? I'm wondering how long it takes? My landlord lives in a fancy mansion in Chestnut hill and sends his 4 kids to private schools. The $800 means nothing to him, but it would really mean a lot to me.

    Debrah

  16. #16
    slj32 is offline Junior Member
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    Deborah, I haven't yet received the forms to file for small claims, so today I went ahead and filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Attorney General. I will let you know what the process is like. If I don't get my deposit back this way my next move is small claims.

    I hear you, my landlord is very wealthy also and I don't know why he is doing this.

  17. #17
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    Tartan69 is offline Pawn in game of life
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    As a landlord myself I concur with everything Mayfair has stated on this thread. Definitely don't bother with phone calls, do everything in writing. I'm eager to hear the outcome.

    As an aside, I learned the 30 day rule the hard way earlier in my landlording career. A tenant's dog had chewed up a bunch of woodwork in the house, causing about $6k worth of damage. It took quite awhile for me to get quotes for repair together, and I sent the formal letter to the tenant on the 33rd day after her lease was up. Her response came directly from her lawyer threatening me with a reverse lawsuit since I did not respond in the 30 day window. My lawyer advised that I may have still had a case due to the level of damage, but due to the way the law is written he didn't advise pursuing it. A very expensive learning experience indeed...

  18. #18
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    ShoshTrvls is offline Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tartan69 View Post
    As a landlord myself I concur with everything Mayfair has stated on this thread. Definitely don't bother with phone calls, do everything in writing. I'm eager to hear the outcome.

    As an aside, I learned the 30 day rule the hard way earlier in my landlording career. A tenant's dog had chewed up a bunch of woodwork in the house, causing about $6k worth of damage. It took quite awhile for me to get quotes for repair together, and I sent the formal letter to the tenant on the 33rd day after her lease was up. Her response came directly from her lawyer threatening me with a reverse lawsuit since I did not respond in the 30 day window. My lawyer advised that I may have still had a case due to the level of damage, but due to the way the law is written he didn't advise pursuing it. A very expensive learning experience indeed...
    I don't know that I would have given you the same advice. I would have advised you to return the deposit, of course, but unless your lease said something to the contrary, you would still have a claim for the damage done to the apartment. (Of course, if your tenant had moved out of state and/or didn't have the resourced to pay, it might not have been worth your time and effort).

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by DebrahAnne View Post
    I'm in the same boat. I live in Mt. Airy. I was under the impression that you go to the web-site of the Pennsylvania attourney general, and file a claim. That way you don't need to pay all of your money out to a lawyer. Has anyone ever done this? I'm wondering how long it takes? My landlord lives in a fancy mansion in Chestnut hill and sends his 4 kids to private schools. The $800 means nothing to him, but it would really mean a lot to me.

    Debrah
    Look at Mayfair Meats posts-you file in landlord tenant section of Municipal Court. Easy to file.
    You should ask for double the amount. The Sheriff will serve him.

    People you should always take advantage of the ease of Phila Municipal Small Claims and Landlord Tenant Court. You don't need a lawyer-the Judge's understand that-it's a great way for a lay person to get justice without paying big checks to a lawyer.
    “If asking a millionaire to pay the same tax rate as a plumber makes me a class warrior, a warrior for the working class, I will accept that. I will wear that charge as a badge of honor. The only ‘warfare’ I’ve seen is the battle that’s been waged against middle-class families in this country for a decade now.”

    -Barack Obama, September 27, 2011

  20. #20
    LOKMom is offline Junior Member
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    Slightly hijacking the topic....

    In the second year of renting can a landlord keep a second month's deposit and call it a pet deposit?

    We gave two months deposit when renting and are now into our third year of renting and he still has the two months deposit. I did not know the law until I read this thread, but I am guessing that he will call the second month deposit a pet deposit if I were to ask about it. So I just wanted to check what some of you thought first.

    Thanks

 

 

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