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Am I entitled to my deposit from private owner? What proof do I need to take action?

Houston, TX |


My roommate and I recently moved out of a town home (Texas) where we paid a security deposit and a pet deposit. At the time of residency were month to month or we had completed our lease. The owner is private however there is a property management company for the property (home owner's association). We did not receive our deposit. We were sent itemized list of "damages" totaling more than the deposit. We were charged for carpet cleaning, heavy cleaning, a door that was off track (we reported) and a pet violation fee. The landlord verbally agreed to pay the pet violation fee for "pooping and not picking it up." There are several dog owners, they could not prove that one person did it so they charged a fee to everyone with a dog. The cleaning fees are outlandish because we actually went above and beyond. We left all carpet cleaned, no trash in the apartment, all floors swept, all appliances (refrigerator) cleaned. The carpet had normal wear and tear (no major stains) or tears/did not need replacement. We did not have a check list at the beginning of the lease, we just called/texted or verbally stated issues that were not always fixed. There was no final walk thru; he did not want to walk thru with the apartment. He shook our hand. Told us he would get with us in 30 days and on day 28 he sends us a letter of "damages" that seem like normal wear and tear under the Texas property code Sec 92.104. The lease does not state that we must clean anything but basically return the apartment as it was when we moved in (minus the normal wear and tear). At this point he is not budging. Not returning phone calls. What can we do about our deposit?

Attorney Answers 3


Consult a local attorney. Your only cause of action might be to take the landlord to court (possibly small claims court depending on the amount of the deposit) for improperly withholding the security deposit. Security deposits are only to be withheld for normal wear and tear -- and it sounds like this is exactly what you are describing. Additionally, you might be entitled to punitive damages if you can show that the withholding was improper (for example, where I practice in Maryland, a landlord might be liable for up to 3 times the amount of the security deposit).

DISCLAIMER: Brandy A. Peeples is licensed to practice law in the State of Maryland. This answer is being provided for informational purposes only and the laws of your jurisdiction may differ. This answer based on general legal principles and is not intended for the purpose of providing specific legal advice or opinions. Under no circumstances does this answer constitute the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. For legal advice relating to your specific situation, I strongly urge you to consult with an attorney in your area. NO COMMUNICATIONS WITH ME ARE TO BE CONSTRUED AS ARISING FROM AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP AND NO ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP WILL BE ESTABLISHED WITH ME UNLESS I HAVE EXPRESSLY AGREED TO UNDERTAKE YOUR REPRESENTATION, WHICH INCLUDES THE EXECUTION OF A WRITTEN AGREEMENT OF RETAINER.

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Your landlord is not in compliance with the requirements for failing to refund your security deposit. I would hire a landlord-tenant attorney to file suit for return of the deposit. As he refused to do a walk through, and you have evidence as to the condition of the premises when you left, he can be liable for return of your deposit, punitive damages and your attorney fees and costs.

Please note that I am answering this question as a service through Avvo but not as your attorney and no attorney-client relationship is established by this posting. An attorney-client relationship can only be established through signing a Fee Agreement and paying the necessary advanced fees.

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It sure appears that he is out of compliance as my colleagues have pointed out. I'm sure a local real estate attorney would be pleased to help you out. Good luck.

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