security deposit return

Asked by Dren, New York, NY Mon Dec 22, 2008

Over three months have passed, and I still cant get the sec. deposit back since that landlord keeps telling me he has no money. Almost every week he tells me "lets meet on Friday to give you the cash" just to get a phonecall a day before that and hear him plead for another two weeks.

I was smart enough to get his personal check from HSBC with the full amount of sec. deposit, but he keeps telling me that it will bounce, so I dont want to lose money. I never found a place that will cash me this personal check.

What should I do? Take it legal? I don't have any contract handy, the only handwritten piece of paper with our signatures is held by him.

Please help!

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Dren, , New York, NY
Thu Feb 12, 2009
Thank you Jess and Ralph for your suggestions.

I already wrote a "demanding" letter and expected a call from him to settle things down before taking the case to the fraud prevention office. However, the call never happened again, so I guess I have to wait now for the results.

As for the evidence, everything was paid in cash except for that last check that he gave me which bounced and I attached the proof with the letter I wrote to him when I sent the appeal to the fraud prevention office.

There are 5 witnesses that I can count on when it comes to recalling me living in that address. These people visited me and two of them actually slept in the living room one night.

I just have a bad feeling overall that the guy is in deep trouble and that he doesn't have that money to give back to me. I'm noticing that the room is still available on CraigsList. Still, he shouldn't have lied to me and drag me several times to NYC just to tell me that he needs two more weeks.

Thank you again, you are a great community! I'll post up my progress just so that future cases will know what to do in such situations.

1 vote
Jess, , New York, NY
Wed Feb 11, 2009
Have you gone to HSBC to see if the check will bounce? If they look at it, and can look up his account, they may level with you before you try to cash it. I think HSBC has to catch the checks of origin, don't they? Its worth a shot.

Anyway, yes, this is ideal small claims court fodder - but the fee to file a claim is $50 so you know.

Another option might be this: In writing, threaten to take him to small claims court, unless you work out a payment plan payable in X amount of payments, starting from this date. Get it stamped by a notary. Have him offer a collatoral (if he will) or maybe just use the court filing as collatoral. If he runs, he runs, but it's no worse than the courts, and less effort.

Since you're already calling him all the time anyway, may as well at least get those $20 payments towards your deposit in the works.

You might want to collect documented evidence you'd lived together, like taping a conversation you have in person about the situation, and getting him to agree verbally the date you moved in, and what you'd agreed on at that time (act like you're fuzzy on it or something). Or get friends to write affadavits (just a statement, stamped by a notary) saying they recall you had lived together at that address, during those dates, and recall if possible that you had a deposit with him.

Small Claims may get you your money back.

You may also get a letter from Judge Judy to be on TV.
1 vote
Ralph Windsc…, Agent, Hauppauge, NY
Tue Dec 23, 2008
Your only remedy, barring getting a lawyer, may be taking him to small claims court. Did you pay rent by cash or check? Any other proof you lived there? Electric, cable, etc. bills?
1 vote
Jamal Hadi, Agent, Scarsdale, NY
Fri Feb 13, 2009
i would give the landlord an ultimatum and tell him that you are goign to take legal action. They usually react to that.

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0 votes
Jess, , New York, NY
Thu Feb 12, 2009
Good luck Dren, I wish you the best.
0 votes
Jolie Muss, , Upper West Side, New York, NY
Thu Feb 12, 2009
This seems more like a legal question than a Real Estate question so first off, I would say contact an attorney, (some work benefit plans offer free legal assistance). That being said from the Real Estate perspective this sounds like an illegal sublet or illegal roomate situation, if the landlord/owner of record was not in agreement or notified of your occupancy (not a landlord/ tenant issue.) From my the view of my own personal experience, I believe you might be able to take this to small claims court on the basis of a bad check and this may also be subject to fraud...Why document your tenancy when you have a "bad check"?
I would also call NYC at 311 to see if they can direct you to the appropriate agencies and procedures.
If you had legally rented this either directly fom the landlord or through a reputable & licensed real estate broker this would probably not have happened and if it did you would have recource through the guidelines set in place by NYC & NYS. I've posted a link to legal memoranda on apartment hunting from the NYS Department of State Office of General Counsel warning about unlicensed and unscrupulous real estate practitioners.
0 votes
Dren, , New York, NY
Tue Dec 23, 2008
Everything was paid in cash -- the guy never wanted to deal with checks.. I'm assuming he was evading taxes and what not. So no, I have no proof of residence in that place. It was short term, and he lived with me in the same apartment. I bet it was illegal to even rent the place, but he was using my money to pay his rent.
0 votes
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