Friday, February 4, 2011


This morning I traveled to the County General District Court and filed a small claims lawsuit against a former landlord, to the amount of $500 plus the $56 filing fee. I have been trying to settle the matter amicably but it has gotten nowhere. Therefore, I have resorted to legal action.

Background of the case:
About two weeks ago, I made a $500 deposit for an apartment --or rather, a room in a 3-bedroom apartment-- with the intention to take up residence beginning of this month. The rent for the room was less than $800 dollars, everything included, which seemed like a great deal at the time. However, I realized shortly afterward my financial condition would be stronger if I tried to find somewhere else cheaper. I gave notice to the landlord two days after making the deposit, with an understanding I would be receiving a major portion of my deposit back.

Fast forward two weeks, and I still have to see the return of my deposit. The landlord argues that I forfeited all my "security deposit" because I changed my mind -- and the receipt we both signed indicated this as a term. But, the law code actually defines my deposit as an "application deposit" since it was for securing a place for future residence. The law indicates that I have the right to see the return of my application deposit under most circumstances. Thus I pointed this to the landlord and sought to settle with him for $400, in addition to finding him a replacement tenant. However, for some unknown reason, he has refused these terms of settlement. He seemed very much adamant about keeping my deposit --and even ignored the replacement tenants I had found him.

Arguments for the case:
  • The law code clearly defines my deposit as an "application deposit" and indicates it should be returned to the tenant in case the dwelling is not ultimately rented. Government documents even point out that clauses indicating a forfeiture of deposit are "probably not enforceable".
  • I gave notice in good faith two days following making the deposit. The landlord essentially had two weeks to find a replacement tenant --an action in which I offered my ready help. I even referred him to number of my friends, whom he turned down.
  • Landlord made no effort to contact other prospective tenants, especially one of whom was very interested and responsive about the place.
  • We reached a verbal agreement that should I find him a replacement tenant, he would refund me the entire deposit. He clearly did not intend to honor this agreement.
  • Landlord since stated there is no lease agreement to sign for the apartment, a fact not revealed to me beforehand. I cannot take an apartment without signed documentation granting me tenancy to the dwelling.
  • Landlord indicated in his last email he did not wish to rent the dwelling to me any more, thereby effectively ending any previous agreement and releasing me from taking the apartment.
  • I made every attempt to settle this matter amicably. Landlord ceased communications with him (e.g. refusing to respond to emails, phone calls), except for the last email in which he argued he felt threatened and no longer wishes to rent the room to me.
My hearing is in 2 months time. This will be my first ever civil lawsuit, unless it is settled beforehand... Yikes!

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