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Old 07-18-2009, 01:14 PM
 
8 posts, read 52,296 times
Reputation: 11

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Can anyone help me out with this please? Someone who never moved in but allowed me to deposit their check as security now wants their money back.

I placed an ad to rent out a room in my house (houseshare) for the 1st of July. Someone who responded came over, liked it then wrote a check to my name and we agreed she could move in on the 15th. (BTW: There's no written or signed document in this situation. All done verbally and by email.)

Two days later, she emails and writes she can't move in now til the 15th of Aug but would pay for the 1 month in between to keep it reserved. Also writes that she's good and ok with the now-revised payment schedule in addition to the fact that I deposited the check. So far, so good.

Two weeks later she writes she can't move in at all due to "financial problems" and could I re-run the ad to find a new renter plus return the full deposit.

I've re-run the ad several times but obviously missed out on ideal timing for July 1 move-in because of her, and now nobody's around during summer vacation. I've ignored the issue about refunding the deposit and I still have nobody in there even after making good-faith efforts to re-advertise and now she threatens to take me to small claims and dock my credit score.

Is a private house owner obligated to refund a deposit if the renter decides to change her mind offering some lame excuse? She claims financial probs yet drives a brand new car. We have nothing in writing spelling out whether a deposit is refundable or not.

I've kept all emails she wrote me where she agreed to rules and payment schedule.

Aren't vacation rentals between private parties also in the same kind of boat when there's nothing in writing?

Thanks for your help.
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Old 07-18-2009, 01:50 PM
 
Location: 39 20' 59"N / 75 30' 53"W
16,081 posts, read 26,424,463 times
Reputation: 18124
In situations where paperwork and leases are used, the LL
would have a clause stating the deposit is non-refundable.
So, I would say, this should have been discussed between
you and the prospective tenant. These are some things
you need to decide beforehand, when doing verbal agreements
how you plan to handle situations of this nature, before they
happen.

If your a private LL, you always have the option to refund
the deposit, even when not required. If you feel there's been
a hardship by your prospective tenant, and allowable
in your state, then keep the deposit.
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Old 07-18-2009, 02:25 PM
 
Location: St Thomas, US Virgin Islands
24,671 posts, read 65,097,604 times
Reputation: 26620
Yes, check the laws in your state but my gut feeling would be to tell her to shove it after having jerked you around for so long - and all of which you obviously have documented. NOT a legal opinion, just my own take. Good luck - and, next time, do a better job of getting everything in writing and with a written rental agreement spelling out all terms and conditions.
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Old 07-18-2009, 03:52 PM
 
8 posts, read 52,296 times
Reputation: 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by STT Resident View Post
Yes, check the laws in your state but my gut feeling would be to tell her to shove it after having jerked you around for so long - and all of which you obviously have documented. NOT a legal opinion, just my own take. Good luck - and, next time, do a better job of getting everything in writing and with a written rental agreement spelling out all terms and conditions.

Thanks very much. I wanted to know the general consensus on these kinds of situations where it's assumed the deposit is non-refundable unless it's clearly spelled out otherwise in writing - even in an email. It could have been an arguable case if I had verbally stated the deposit was refundable, but that never happened. She acknowledged her consent and approval of me depositing the check by ok'ing it in her email and not disputing the fact.

I've also heard this happening with beach vacation home owners who rent out their extra rooms for the weekend for all cash without any agreement in place.

I was also worried about the threat to my credit score. Nobody can just look up your checking account, track down your personal financial info and cause damage to your credit unless they are a true hacker (I hope).
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Old 07-18-2009, 04:10 PM
 
Location: 39 20' 59"N / 75 30' 53"W
16,081 posts, read 26,424,463 times
Reputation: 18124
You have the right to deposit the check, it doesn't require her approval.
Refunding deposit is another story, the fact that you didn't state refundable,
doesn't mean it's not. It's either refundable or it's not, theres
no gray area here.
However, having said that, I can't say you are within your rights to keep the deposit,
even though she played it out way to long.

Last edited by virgode; 07-18-2009 at 04:29 PM.. Reason: paragraphing
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Old 07-18-2009, 09:12 PM
 
Location: Indianapolis, IN
914 posts, read 4,254,631 times
Reputation: 845
I would check with a lawyer. It seems to me that you should be able to keep the deposit. The point of a deposit to hold an apartment is usually so that if someone backs out of a rental you've been holding for them, you have some compensation for the fact that you've been holding the apartment when you could have been renting it to someone else. She jerked you around for a while, so it seems perfectly reasonable that you could argue this is your compensation for not being able to collect rent on your apartment from someone else during that time. You should definitely look at your state law, but in this case, I don't know you will get a clear answer from it, which is why I think you might need to actually get some legal advice.
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Old 07-19-2009, 12:28 AM
 
27,790 posts, read 58,481,561 times
Reputation: 22433
Really depends on the laws in your jurisdiction...

You can do nothing and wait to be sued...

In my State, California, Oral rental Agreements are every bit as binding as written agreements for periods up to one year... the statute of fraud requires agreements longer than a year to be in writing the last time I checked.

Also, non refundable deposits are not permitted in any circumstances...

The term of notice is based on the interval rent is paid... a month to month only requires 30 days notice from the tenant to vacate.

Aside from rent and the cost of advertising... you would be hard pressed to prove any physical damage to a unit not moved into...

Your back and forth e-mails also provide a paper trail as well as the check you cashed.

She gave you notice and that is when the clock starts in my opinion...

As always, the only opinion that counts is from an attorney hired to represent you... good luck.
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Old 07-19-2009, 06:45 AM
 
8,648 posts, read 16,306,854 times
Reputation: 4603
Quote:
Originally Posted by kleeka View Post
Can anyone help me out with this please? Someone who never moved in but allowed me to deposit their check as security now wants their money back.

I placed an ad to rent out a room in my house (houseshare) for the 1st of July. Someone who responded came over, liked it then wrote a check to my name and we agreed she could move in on the 15th. (BTW: There's no written or signed document in this situation. All done verbally and by email.)

Two days later, she emails and writes she can't move in now til the 15th of Aug but would pay for the 1 month in between to keep it reserved. Also writes that she's good and ok with the now-revised payment schedule in addition to the fact that I deposited the check. So far, so good.

Two weeks later she writes she can't move in at all due to "financial problems" and could I re-run the ad to find a new renter plus return the full deposit.

I've re-run the ad several times but obviously missed out on ideal timing for July 1 move-in because of her, and now nobody's around during summer vacation. I've ignored the issue about refunding the deposit and I still have nobody in there even after making good-faith efforts to re-advertise and now she threatens to take me to small claims and dock my credit score.

Is a private house owner obligated to refund a deposit if the renter decides to change her mind offering some lame excuse? She claims financial probs yet drives a brand new car. We have nothing in writing spelling out whether a deposit is refundable or not.

I've kept all emails she wrote me where she agreed to rules and payment schedule.

Aren't vacation rentals between private parties also in the same kind of boat when there's nothing in writing?

Thanks for your help.
She if you can get her to confess in e-mails...
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Old 07-19-2009, 07:06 AM
 
8 posts, read 52,296 times
Reputation: 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ultrarunner View Post
Really depends on the laws in your jurisdiction...

You can do nothing and wait to be sued...

Aside from rent and the cost of advertising... you would be hard pressed to prove any physical damage to a unit not moved into...

Your back and forth e-mails also provide a paper trail as well as the check you cashed.

She gave you notice and that is when the clock starts in my opinion...

As always, the only opinion that counts is from an attorney hired to represent you... good luck.

My location is NY and I'll probably wait to be sued in small claims court without needing an attorney. I feel verbally competent enough with my emails to represent myself in court. The renter changed her mind and never moved in and I agree with Jillacea that a deposit is used for security money to protect or hold the item/service, etc. for the person who wants it. Around here that's the definitiion of a security deposit and unless something is in writing, the purchaser would lose the deposit for not coming through or not having an immediate replacement. Both of these reasons apply to my situation. I ended up holding the bag and missing out on golden timing because of her. This whole thing should cost her the deposit as in the way punitive damages are charged.
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Old 07-19-2009, 12:13 PM
 
Location: 39 20' 59"N / 75 30' 53"W
16,081 posts, read 26,424,463 times
Reputation: 18124
Kleeka
Let us know how things turn out for you, we don't always here
end results.
Good Luck
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