Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Help Me Howard: Rent Deposit
Before you rent an apartment, some landlords require you to put down a deposit while they consider whether or not to let you move in. If they dont, you are told you will get your money back. But one South Florida woman says they wont return her deposit, which is why she called Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser, and they have a warning about deposits.
WSVN -- When it comes to handling money, Margaret Ashley is pretty good at it.
Margaret Ashley: "I work for the Seminole Casino Cage cashier."
You know what a cage cashier is dont you. The person who gets to see a lot of winning faces.
Margaret Ashley: "It's a pretty good place to work for. Very, very nice atmosphere and people. Pretty good people."
But Margaret is having a little cash problem right now after trying to rent an apartment.
Margaret Ashley: "I have a bad knee and I have to be on the first floor."
Margaret loved this Broward apartment complex so she paid $50 for a background check and gave them a $500 money order for a deposit.
Margaret Ashley: "She said I should give it to her to hold the apartment. If they deny me they will return my money."
A few hours later, she got some bad news.
Margaret Ashley: "She said 'We can't give you the apartment Margaret.' I said because of what she said because you have an eviction on your name."
Years ago, Margaret had a dispute with a landlord and moved out of the apartment. She didn't consider it an eviction and so she told the apartment manager she would come get her $500 back and find another place
Margaret Ashley: "She told me well are you sitting down. I said what should I be sitting down for. Oh, corporate not going to refund your money."
But the manager told her if she doubled her deposit and put down $3,500 they would let her rent the apartment. Margaret thought that was outrageous.
Margaret Ashley: "I said no I cannot that was not the arrangement in the first place."
Margaret says the manager then told her sorry you don't get the apartment and you don't get your $500 deposit back.
Margaret Ashley: "I need my money. I need a place to live."
Howard, legally does she have a right to get her $500 deposit.
Howard Finkelstein: "In my opinion, yes because this contract is what the law calls Illusory because when the tenant applies for a lease, its only the tenant that is obligated to go thru with a contract and not the landlord, and in my opinion, if a judge had to rule on this, they would declare it an invalid contract and return Margaret's $500 deposit."
When we contacted the owner of the Key West apartment building in Hollywood, he had his lawyers look at what Howard said and they do not believe the contract is illusory that the contract is fair and they refused to return Margaret's money.
Howard says, Margaret should take them to small claims court and other renters should be careful.
Howard Finkelstein: "Try to avoid putting down a deposit until you have been approved. It doesnt take long for them to determine if you can move in. If they cant wait a few minutes or hours for your money then go to another place."
Margaret has moved on to another place with less money in her wallet and less trust in people.
Margaret Ashley: "I feel like I can't deal. I can't trust people. Even if people are legit you cannot trust them."
Patrick Fraser: "Margaret had trouble with a deposit before she moved in. To get your deposit when you move out of a rental, make sure you take pictures after you clean up and ask the landlord to inspect and put in writing there were no damages. If so, you should get your deposit back with 15 days. Just be careful before you move in or out because it's your money at stake.
Got a problem you would like to see packed up and moved on? Deposit it with us. We dont need security to protect you, just Howard's wonderful legal mind...OK, his law books.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
EMAIL: firstname.lastname@example.org (Please include your contact phone number when emailing)
REPORTER: Patrick Fraser at email@example.com