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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    3

    Default Roommate Stole a Deposit of 5 People - Is the Landlord Liable

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

    The situation:

    Lived in a place with 5 total people (all friends) last year with a landlord who was really lazy and unreliable. Moved out a couple months ago when I realized I had never gotten my deposit. I called the landlord and he said that he had given the FULL portion of the deposit (5 people * $600) to the one guy who then took off with it. Is the landlord ultimately responsible/liable for our portions of the deposit? All 5 names were signed on the lease, and we each individually paid our own share of the deposit. I cannot remember if/what the lease said about the deposit being paid back, but I have to think that the landlord is responsible for giving each individual their respective portion of the deposit back.

    Appreciate any help you can provide me with the situation.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2005
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    Default Re: Roommate Stole a Deposit of 5 People - Is the Landlord Liable

    Knowing what's in the lease is important, because you may have authorized the landlord to refund the security deposit to a subset (or one) of the identified tenants.

    How did this happen? Is the roommate who received the deposit the only one who bothered to give the landlord a forwarding address? Why haven't you pursued your ex-roommate for the money?

    If you sue your landlord in small claims court and he has any sense, he'll cross-claim the roommate with the money and ask the court to leave him out of the middle, and to give you judgments against the roommate who has your cash.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    3

    Default Re: Roommate Stole a Deposit of 5 People - Is the Landlord Liable

    I don't think any of us gave the landlord a forwarding address. I cannot find the roommate who stole the money, and of course my plan is to hunt him down... but the whole situation got me thinking -- "Well, this whole thing happened because our landlord gave the full deposit to one guy". (I do understand that I am also to blame for not submitting a forwarding address.)

    The ultimate question I am asking is assuming there is no clause in the lease that says the landlord can give the full deposit to one person, what is the landlord's responsibility regarding returning the deposit to each individual if the individual doesn't take any action in reclaiming the deposit (i.e submit a forwarding address)?

    Thanks

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    38,734

    Default Re: Roommate Stole a Deposit of 5 People - Is the Landlord Liable

    you left no forwarding address with the LL. Now how do you suppose he was supposed to return any portion to you? In most states, a LL is required to return the deposit within a certain time frame and failure to do so results in him being penalized.

    Generally there is no concern with returning the entire deposit to one individual of a group. Unless you were each required to pay $XX.XX (and listed as such on the lease), none of the deposit was specifically yours or the person who claimed it but the groups. As such, it is proper to return the deposit to a representative of the group.

    do you know if it was given in a check or as cash?

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    3

    Default Re: Roommate Stole a Deposit of 5 People - Is the Landlord Liable

    Everything was checks.

    OK, I understand that it is pretty stupid not to leave a forwarding address.

    I guess the question is whether the landlord is responsible for returning each individual's deposit vs one lump sum to one person. I know that all 5 people were listed on the lease. I am not sure what the lease says, but I would not think it would be reasonable for one (in this case 4) tenant(s) to have to rely on one other roommate to get their security deposit back.

    Say for example 2 strangers moved into one place. Both have their names signed to the lease and pay the security deposit. I would expect that the security deposit would be given back to both individuals rather than a lump-sum to one person. Should a person have to worry about whether they will get their portion of a security deposit back at the end because it will be given in a lump sum amount to another person? If so, there is an unnecessary risk assumed by the 1 person that doesn't get their portion directly which could be mitigated by the landlord simply returning each individual their portion.

    Let me know what you think.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2006
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    38,734

    Default Re: Roommate Stole a Deposit of 5 People - Is the Landlord Liable

    Unless each individual paid individual deposits, such as, you were required to pay $1000 (per the lease, not per some agreement outside of the lease),then you have an argument that the LL owed your deposit to you. If the lease simply required $5000 deposit, then the deposit was $5000 and no one person is owed the deposit or any specific portion of it. The group is owed $5000. More often than not, the total deposit is how things are written. A LL generally does not want to get into little arguments between co-tenants. All he wants is his total deposit and hit total monthly rent payment. How the tenants split it up amongst themselves is irrelevant to him.

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