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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2010
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    4

    Default Landlord Won't Give Back Deposit, Never Signed Lease

    My question involves landlord-tenant law in the State of: California

    Me and my roommate never signed a lease to a place we wanted to rent and landlord will not return our deposit. Here is the sequence of events that have occurred:
    - Found house on Craiglist
    - Emailed the posting lister “Heather” and she immediately replied and referred to us the landlord’s phone number
    - Called the landlord, filled out applications which he emailed on April 10
    - Saw the house on April 11
    - He was pushing for us to move in ASAP starting April 15, when we ideally desired to start renting May 1
    - However, we really wanted the place and agreed to move in on April 15
    - However, we mentioned that we may not have all the rent and security deposit by that date
    - In order to show our interest and commitment to the place, we issued the landlord a check for $885 which would count towards our security deposit
    - April 12: called the landlord and mentioned we were having trouble with one of our roommates and getting all of our funding together
    - We told him we were going to find a 3rd roommate ASAP to fill all of the funding and he agreed
    - We did not mention what date “ASAP” might be
    - April 15: the landlord proposed move in date (no lease signed, no rent, no deposit except the $885), however, we called the landlord and he did not answer his phone
    - April 19: called landlord and let him know we found a 3rd roommate, however, we would not be able to have all rent and deposit until May 1st.
    - April 20: called landlord and said he found another applicant and that he would think it over and call us back
    - April 21: landlord hadn’t called back so we called to update and he said he’s still thinking it over and will call back
    - Not once has landlord called us. We have attempted calling everyday from this point from both of our phones, other phones, and blocking our numbers. He has not answered once. We have left multiple voicemails and even emailed the original poster of the Craigslist listing to have the landlord call us. She never replied and the landlord did not call.
    - April 28: drove to the place to speak to the upstairs tenants. They informed us the place has been rented. Still no call or update from landlord.
    - As a last resort, we were on our way to the place again to see if by chance the landlord would be there seeing as it’s the first of the month and the tenants are possibly moving in. On the way, we decided to call landlord one last time and he finally answered. He said he was keeping the $885 and would counter sue us for back rent of the 15 days no one lived in the house. Told us to “tell it to the judge”. At the house, we spoke to the tenant and said he first contacted the landlord around the middle of April and landlord said it was already rented (to us). However, landlord called back after April 15 and is now renting to this tenant.

    We are college students and want our $885 back. Do we have a case in small claims court? Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you very much.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    25,822

    Default Re: Landlord Won't Give Back Deposit, Never Signed Lease

    -
    However, we really wanted the place and agreed to move in on April 15
    when did he re-rent the place and what was the total monthly rent?
    I am not an attorney and any advice is not to be construed as legal advice. You might even want to ignore my advice. Actually, there are plenty of real attorneys that you might want to ignore as well.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Landlord Won't Give Back Deposit, Never Signed Lease

    Hi and thank you for the reply. He re-rented it after the 15 of April to the current tenant who moved in today, May 1. This man was interested in the place prior to the 15, so all the landlord had to do was call him back and say the place is now available, which he did and is now renting to that man. Rent is $2,650. Thank you again for your help.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    25,822

    Default Re: Landlord Won't Give Back Deposit, Never Signed Lease

    well, I don't think you have right to all of it unless you can prove the LL had an agreement with the eventual tenants as of the 15th. From what you stated, you still claimed you were moving in when you spoke to him the 19th so you would owe from the 15th to the 19th as a minimum. That is $447.50 of your deposit.

    I can see you making a claim for the rest as the LL all but told you he had another tenant BUT if the other tenant could not move in until the 1st (by the tenants timeline), you would owe for the full 1/2 month which would be $1325.

    So, it sounds like a gamble unless you have some pretty solid proof of the tenant being able to move in on the 20th. You could actually lose another $440 if the LL wanted to fight for it and the tenant could not move in until the 1st.
    I am not an attorney and any advice is not to be construed as legal advice. You might even want to ignore my advice. Actually, there are plenty of real attorneys that you might want to ignore as well.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Landlord Won't Give Back Deposit, Never Signed Lease

    Hi and thank you again. I will have to go back and speak with the current tenant. Does the fact that the landlord did not have to go out and search for other tenants help our case? Considering all he had to do was call the guy back who was interested? Also, the landlord never once told us he rented it to someone else. We found out by speaking with the upstairs tenants. The first time we have been in contact with him is today in which he informed us he is keeping our $885 and will counter sue us if we want to get it back. Since we have had no communication with him, we have not even had a chance to remedy the situation. He rented the place out to someone else and did not even inform us of this, except today to let us know we aren't getting our money back. This is really not a cool situation and the fact he is doing this is BS. Thanks very much.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
    Posts
    25,822

    Default Re: Landlord Won't Give Back Deposit, Never Signed Lease

    as I said, the actual time line is going to play into this a lot. You stated you were still intending on renting the place the 19th. When the tenants signed and when they stated they could move in is critical in making any claim.


    Does the fact that the landlord did not have to go out and search for other tenants help our case?
    well, it means that since they moved in the 1st, you wouldn't owe anything beyond that. He would also not be able to claim any advertising expenses. Other than that, won't really make any difference.
    I am not an attorney and any advice is not to be construed as legal advice. You might even want to ignore my advice. Actually, there are plenty of real attorneys that you might want to ignore as well.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Posts
    4

    Default Re: Landlord Won't Give Back Deposit, Never Signed Lease

    We had informed him on the 19th that we found a third roommate but would not be able to get the full rent and deposit until May 1st. We also mentioned to him on April 11 that we might not be able to get all the rent and deposit by the 15, though we had agreed to move in that date. Wouldn't that compromise the entire situation? We agreed to move in the 15th but informed him we might not have all the money. Those things contradict each other right? He also never took down signs in the area advertising the place during this period. Therefore indicating a sign he was unsure of us in the first place. Am I right? Sorry for all the questions and naivette on the topic, this is just a stressful situation. Thank you again so much for the advice.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Landlord Won't Give Back Deposit, Never Signed Lease

    From what you have said, you were sending a pretty clear message to the landlord that, if he kept you as tenants, he would have nothing but trouble getting the rent paid on time.

    When you say, "In order to show our interest and commitment to the place, we issued the landlord a check for $885 which would count towards our security deposit", are you stating that you paid a holding deposit? That's a deposit to hold the rental unit for a stated period of time until you in fact pay the first month’s rent and any required security deposit. During the holding period, the landlord agrees not to rent the unit to anyone else. If the tenant does not move in as agreed, paying the rest of the money due, the landlord may keep at least some of the holding deposit.

    If that's what is at issue, you paid to hold the apartment through April 15, when you weren't able to move in. You got the landlord to give you a few extra days, then called back to say you still didn't have the money but would be interested in moving in on May 1. (Did you also try to convince the landlord not to charge rent for the second half April, or to forgive that rent balance?) If the agreement was to hold the apartment until April 15, and the landlord did that (plus a few days), it sounds like the landlord kept his part of the bargain - and the deposit is less than his damages (the amount of rent he would have received had you moved in as agreed, up until the time the new tenant took occupancy) so it does not appear to be an unreasonable penalty.

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