Do I have to return a partial deposit on a mobile home since the buyer never signed the contract? The buyer also lied about the amount they actually had put down and they damaged the property and left without notice.
Usually, buyers pay earnest money when they put an offer on a property. The offer is legally binding, and is usually signed by both parties. If this is the case, then the document you signed would provide for the conditions under which the buyer can back out of the sale and receive their earnest money back. Often, one of the reasons that allows a buyer to get this deposit back is if they cannot obtain financing despite a good faith effort to secure it. If this was the case, then the buyers may be entitled to a return of the deposit. The same analysis may apply if the you and the buyers did not sign an offer agreement since it is so typical in real estate.
The damage to the property is another matter. It sounds as though the buyers may have already moved in. If this was the case, then it makes a difference whether the money was earnest money or whether it also acted like a security deposit on the property. If it was a security deposit, then you can probably retain it for covering the property damage (be sure to check your state’s requirements for doing this—you may have to list the damages and costs and invoice the buyers). If you have a written agreement regarding the purpose of the deposit, it will most likely establish how the deposit will be treated. If not, then you’d have to prove that it was also intended as a security deposit.
Even if you can’t establish a way to keep the deposit, you can still hold the buyers liable for the property damage. A local real estate attorney can help you determine whether you are likely able to keep
the deposit, or if you should return it but file a lawsuit against the buyers for the property damage.