My Landlord Refuses to Return my Deposit Even Though I Only Stayed for Two Days, How can I Get my Money Back?

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“Hello, I am an international student currently working in Newport, RI for summer. Since my employer did not provide me housing, I had to find it by myself, so I found it through the Internet (classified). The owner demanded deposit $500 before I came to USA. Therefore, I sent the money via Western Union on June 15th since I thought it was my only option. I came to USA on June 25th; however, the house was dirty and was not what I had expected. Next day I went to a real estate agency and they found me new housing, cheaper and clean. So I logically decided to leave the house after 2 nights. However, the owner has not given me the deposit back yet and he has told me he is not going to do so since he declared he lost time and money from June 15th to June 25th till I came to USA, so he used my deposit money to cover his “expenses”. So I asked myself why did he choose me because he knew that I was coming 10 days after I had sent the money. I even did not have time to sign a lease with him, but I have the receipt from Western Union. What should I do? Is there any chance I can get my money back even without signed lease??? Could you please give me advice??”

[NOTE: Articles and answers on DearEsq., while written and published by lawyers, do not constitute legal advice, and no attorney-client relationship is formed by your reading of this information. You should always consult with an attorney for any legal situations.]

There are two separate issues, here: the time before your tenancy was supposed to start, and the time after.

With respect to the time before your tenancy was supposed to start, that is generally not your responsibility. If a landlord wants to charge you a fee to “hold” the property, he can certainly do so, but that’s in effect starting the tenancy earlier.

With respect to the time after your tenancy started, depending on the local laws, your landlord may be entitled to a month’s rent or more when you terminate your tenancy without notice. (This amount is generally limited if the landlord finds a new tenant within that time.)

Your biggest problem here is that you have no written rental agreement. Therefore, things like the starting date may be “remembered” differently by you and by the landlord.

It wouldn’t hurt much to explore a compromise, or failing that to try taking the landlord to small claims court, but you should be aware that this is very much a “he said/she said” kind of situation.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.