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My Landlord Will Not Return My Security Deposit: What Can I Do?

Read answers to frequently asked questions about security deposit cases in Georgia.

In Georgia, landlords typically require prospective tenants to pay a security deposit as an “insurance policy” against future damages in the apartment. Oftentimes, the amount of the security deposit is dependent upon a tenant’s credit report and/or rental history. In the Atlanta metro area, the average monthly rent for an apartment is $1,517. As a standard practice, landlords typically require one month’s rent as a security deposit.

Q1) What should I do to ensure that I get my security deposit back?

A: To protect your security deposit, tenants should be sure to complete a move-in inspection and write down all visible defects on the move-in inspection form. If your landlord does not offer you one, you can print one off online or simply send an email to the landlord or property management with your list of defects. Save the email on your phone and back it up to a second source.

Q2) How do I protect my security deposit at move-out?

A: When it is time to find a new home, be sure to:

(1) provide adequate, written notice of non-renewal.

Pro Tip: Many lease agreements require a 60 or 90-day notice if a tenant does not want to renew the lease agreement. If you don’t provide the notice, the lease may renew automatically. The additional month of rent could be subtracted from a tenant’s security deposit—causing the tenant to forfeit the deposit.

(2) Take pictures and videos of the apartment’s condition at move-out.

(3) Complete the move-out inspection using the same form at move-in to ensure you are not responsible for damages that existed at the time of move-in.

(4) Provide a forwarding address to your landlord, so they know where to forward the security deposit.

Q3) I moved out over 3 months ago, but I have not received a response from the landlord after requesting my security deposit back multiple times.

A: The landlord is required to provide you with an itemized statement of your security deposit funds within 30 days of moving out of the apartment. If a landlord fails to do so, they may be prohibited from withholding any portion of the deposit.

Q4) How can I determine if the damages are ‘normal wear and tear?’

A: Landlords are only allowed to charge for damages that exceed normal wear and tear. To determine if damages are ‘normal’ the Court looks at the severity of the damages compared to the length of time a tenant lived in the apartment or home. This means that a tenant that lives in a home for 5 years is expected to have more damages than a tenant that lived in an apartment for 6 months.

Q5) I disputed the list of damages, but the issue was not resolved. What are my legal options?

A: Tenants can file a small claims lawsuit in magistrate, superior, or state court. Magistrate courts are designed to assist pro se (people without attorneys) tenants because they are faster, informal, and easier to navigate. For example, the rules of evidence and civil procedure applicable in superior and state courts do not apply in magistrate courts.

Q6) What types of damages am I entitled to?

A: Tenants can receive treble damages (three times) and attorney’s fees for security deposit cases if the Court finds that the landlord wrongfully withheld it. Practically speaking—a tenant paying the average rent in Atlanta, could recover $4,500 in damages and reasonable attorney’s fees. However, treble damages and attorney’s fees are not guaranteed under the Georgia statute.

Q7) How do I know if I have a case?

A: Edmonds Law Office is experienced in landlord tenant matters. Schedule a consultation here to discuss your specific case.

Q8) What’s included in a consultation?

A. During a consultation, Attorney Edmonds will discuss your case facts, assess your potential claims, and discuss possible resolutions. Our office has been successful:

  • avoiding eviction filings (expedited legal services)

  • defending against wrongful evictions

  • pursuing monetary claims against your landlord

  • removing inaccurate debts from credit reports

  • having security deposits returned

  • assisting tenants terminate leases and/or relocate to better conditions

  • protecting credit history

Recent Success: In February 2021, Edmonds Law Office obtained a judgment against a landlord for treble damages and attorney’s fees for our client, Anonymous Alex who had his security deposit wrongfully withheld after moving out of a Macon apartment in 2018.

Get To The Point: If your landlord is wrongfully withholding your security deposit, you may want to consult with an attorney to determine the scope of your damages. Even if you incur attorney’s fees, you may be able to have them reimbursed and paid by your landlord.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER: Any information provided in the Ask Angie blog is for informative purposes only. It does not form an attorney-client agreement. A signed attorney-client agreement is required to retain Edmonds Law Office of Civil Rights LLC.. #AskAngie #edmondslawoffice #landlordtenant #COVID19 #georgialawyer #securitydepositcases

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