Lawrence L. Sober: Security deposits a scam
November 2, 2011
To the editor:
There's a misconception about the purpose of security deposits and rights a renter or landlord have.
Security deposits have become one of the biggest scams in our nation. A security deposit is not a cleaning deposit as many renters have been led to believe.
The courts have determined that money a renter pays toward a security deposit is the renter's money. That money is to be placed into a separate bank account from the landlord's personal account.
In many cases, the money is spent by the landlord because they never intended to return the deposit.
Renters and landlords have rights when it comes to security deposits. A security deposit cannot be held for normal wear and tear resulting from a renter living at the residence.
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Many landlords keep deposit money for cleaning carpets, even when all they did was vacuum the carpets. A security deposit cannot be held in that case.
However, a landlord may specify in the lease carpets must be cleaned by a professional carpet cleaner after the renter moves out. That then becomes part of the rental agreement.
A renter can ask to see a receipt from the landlord who holds the security deposit when they have had to pay that cost.
Colorado has some of the worst consumer protection laws in the country, so before you sign a lease or rental agreement, be sure you know what you are agreeing to.
It's possible to break a lease early and not lose your deposit. You must have good reason, and you have to notify your landlord in writing, listing reasons why you are breaking the lease.
You cannot be forced to continue living in a place a reasonable person would believe uninhabitable, where there is a danger to your health or safety, like faulty gas appliances, high levels of carbon monoxide, heavy pest infestations or in this area, a place that may have been a meth lab.
Do not let a Realtor or landlord tell you what's in the rental agreement or you cannot get your deposit back. The biggest reason this has become such a scam is because so many people just walk away and let the landlord have their deposit money.
Some people do not know how to file a complaint in small claims court or how to proceed. It may seem the additional cost combined with a workday loss may not seem worth the trouble.
Property owners have rights, too, so if you break windows or doors, knock holes in walls, etc., don't expect your deposit back.
Or, if you do not give notice of your intention to move out, don't pay your rent or have agreed to do something in the rental agreement that you did not do.
I'm not an attorney, but these are basic protections you have. There are circumstances where you may need legal advice.
I have known of cases in our community where Realtors and landlords have misinformed renters about their rights.
If you search security deposit on your computer, you'll see that this has become a nationwide scam that allows people on both sides to lose their money.
Lawrence L. Sober