Getting Your Security Deposit Back
Authored By: Legal Aid Services of Oklahoma, Inc.
The first step is to give your landlord a written notice. The best time to request your deposit is when you notify the landlord that you are moving. You provide this notice as soon as you know your new address-at least 30 to 45 days before you move. In your notice, tell the landlord you are asking for your deposit back. You must give the landlord an address where you can receive mail after you move. If you don't know the new address, give the address of a relative or friend that will give you your mail as soon as it comes. You are not entitled to get your deposit back before you move.
Be sure to make a photocopy of the notice and save it. Don’t wait too long to request the return of your security deposit. Oklahoma law allows the landlord to keep your deposit if you do not make a written request for your security deposit within 6 months of the end of your lease.
Within 45 days after you move and give notice, the landlord either must return your entire deposit, or send you a list of the reasons for keeping all or part of your money. Your landlord is allowed to inspect the place after you move, and to make repairs. You are not responsible for problems that existed when you moved in or for normal wear and tear. You should have a list and pictures of any damage to the property that was there when you moved in. Take pictures of the property when you move out in case you need proof that you left the home clean and without damage. The landlord can deduct from your deposit for past-due rent and for certain damages and repairs. You are required to pay for damages you, your family, or guests caused either on purpose or by not being careful.
What do I do if the landlord won't give my security deposit back?
If the landlord does not respond to your notice within 45days, or if the landlord sends you a list of charges that you do not believe you owe, you must try to get your money back another way. The two best ways to get your money back are through mediation or Small Claims Court.
Mediation is a process where you and the landlord try to work out your dispute without going to court. A trained, neutral mediator will sit down with you and your landlord and try to help you reach a settlement. Mediation does not cost very much. If both sides agree to try mediation, it can work. To find a court-sponsored mediation program near you call this toll free number: 877-521-6677. Each county in Oklahoma has an Early Settlement Mediation program.
Find the program for your county at the Oklahoma Supreme Court Network website at http:\\www.oscn.net and click “Programs: on the Top Navigation Links.
Small Claims Court
Small Claims Court is for those who want to sue for small amounts of money, like security deposits. Small Claims Court is only for cases involving amounts under $7,500.00. You do not have to have an attorney. The hearing date will be at least 10 days after you file your lawsuit.
Send a letter or "notice" to your landlord asking for your security deposit back.
*** IMPORTANT! *** Be sure to:
- date your letter; and,
- keep a copy of your letter
March 30, 2016
John Q. Landlord
I rented from you at ______________ (put the address of the place you rented).
I will be moving on OR I moved out on _____________ (put the date you will move or date you moved out, for example April 30, 2016).
Please return my security deposit to me at this address:
1111 W. Classen
Oklahoma City, OK 74037
Please send my deposit and any other mail to this address.
Signed: [Jane Doe]
Filing a Lawsuit in Small Claims Court
To file a case in Small Claims Court, you must:
- fill out the court form - the court clerk at your local courthouse will have the form; and,
have the name and address of the person or company you are suing (landlord); and,
CAUTION! The person who took your deposit may be helping out a family member or work for the person or company that owns the property. They may not be the person you should sue. If you have a written lease, check the name of the landlord.
- pay the filing fee, and,
- send the papers to the person or company you are suing (landlord); and,
mail them certified mail, return receipt requested, restricted delivery orthe sheriff can deliver for a fee, usually about $50.
You have to pay a filing fee and for the cost of getting the notice to the landlord. The cost of notice depends on how you send the papers. The Small Claims Court Clerk will explain the options and costs. If you cannot afford the costs, ask the court clerk how to file a "Pauper's Affidavit."
The clerk will set a hearing date for a date at least 10 days after you file your lawsuit.
At the hearing, you must show the judge:
- a copy of your written request for the return of your deposit.
- and you must also show that you have waited 45 days after the date of your letter for the landlord to respond or give you your security deposit back. This is why it is so important to date your letter and have some way of showing the landlord received it.
If the landlord sent you a response, show it to the judge. The judge will then let the landlord explain the reasons for keeping the deposit.
If the judge rules in your favor, he or she will enter an order granting you a certain amount of money, including your court costs.
The landlord may pay you voluntarily.
If not, you must take legal steps to collect the money. A lawyer can tell you what you must do to collect your money.
Remember: Each case is different. This is meant to give you general legal information, not specific legal advice about your case or circumstances.