On Friday, April 22, I appeared in court to sue a landlord for non-return of a residential deposit. The landlord did not send an accounting or return my $1300.00 deposit with 30 days.
The judge found in my favor, but only gave me $150.00 in damages. He made it clear that I had won on the facts, but I don't understand why I even had to argue the facts, since they violated the 30 day law. I thought that violating the 30 day statute was, in itself, proof of bad faith.
I can certainly see why landlords' routinely keep deposits. There is no punishment. They can keep 20 deposits, and likely only one person will sue. They can make out like bandits.
What are the possible reasons for denying a bad faith claim?
The landlord's failure to provide you an accounting or refund your security deposit within the 30 day period created a "presumption of bad faith." (See Texas Property Code sec. 92.108). That is not a finding of bad faith, but it places the burden on the landlord to overcome the presumption. It appears as though the judge chose to find that his actions were not done in bad faith.
If this particular landlord had a routine of failing to return security deposits or provide an accounting, I doubt he would have been able to overcome the presumption if such evidence were properly before the court.
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