I signed an existing lease to share a house with five other tenants last November. Upon signing the lease, I paid a $600 security deposit.
The lease ended on August 31st and at the final walk-through, it was decided that one of the roommates would get the total $3600 deposit mailed to her for her to distribute amongst us.
I disagreed to this and contacted the landlord by email requesting a personal check for my share of the security deposit. The email was ignored.
One week ago, the roommate received a check for $2200 from the landlord. She has informed the other roommates and myself that she will not be distributing the $2200 equally and instead is withholding our shares because she believes that we didn't contribute to cleaning the house as much as she did and that is the reason why there were deductions. She wants to distribute the money at her discretion based on who she thinks contributed the most.
The lease does not define whether or not the security deposit has to be equally distributed, I only have a receipt that I paid $600.
Considering we all paid an equal amount into the total deposit, do I have a legal claim to an equally divided share of the amount refunded?
You can take her to small claims to get the full amount (adjusted) that is due you. What do the other girls plan on doing?
Did you and the landlord sign a move in checklist when you first moved in? The WA Residential Landlord-Tenant Act requires a move in checklist signed by both the landlord and the tenant for the landlord to have the legal right to collect or keep any of the deposit.
When there is no signed move in checklist or when there is another violation of the statutory requirements for deposits, the landlord must return all the deposit to the tenant or risks being ordered by the court to pay double the unpaid deposit and the tenant's attorney's fees. The landlord can sue in a separate lawsuit for any damages, beyond normal wear and tear, that the landlord can prove the tenant did.
You would need to review the rental agreement to see whether you rented directly from the landlord or whether you were part of a package deal. If you rented directly from the landlord, the landlord must return your deposit to you, not to someone else.
You can review the specific facts with your attorney to find out your legal options.
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