It's only $300, but it's my $300.

So if my ex-landlord doesn’t give me my damage deposit back, do I call the police or what?

12 Replies to “It's only $300, but it's my $300.”

  1. Not the police, but you may have to file a complaint with the residential tenancy board. The rules about security deposits are pretty straightforward and you should DEFINITELY follow up on it.

    Here’s a link to the RTA website with details on the security deposit:
    http://www.rto.gov.bc.ca/content/rightsResponsibilities/security.aspx

    Some interesting excerpts:
    1. The landlord is required to either return your security deposit within 15 days of the end of your tenancy or file a claim to keep it.
    2. “Security deposits paid to landlords on or before December 31, 2003 may be retained until the end of the tenancy… a landlord who does not return or file a claim… may be required to pay the tenant double the amount of the deposit.”

    I think you have a good chance of just getting your deposit back, no questions asked, because your landlord didn’t pay it back or file a claim within 15 days. And if you were living there since 2003, you might just get $600 back.

    I know it doesn’t seem like a lot of cash, but scumbag developers like the scumbag who unlawfully evicted you and your neighbors will only keep doing it while it’s cost effective, so every little $300 counts.

  2. Small claims court would be the way to do it in the U.S. I’m not sure if the same sort of thing exists in Canada.

    You could always sign up your landlord for subscriptions to awesome magazines like Cat Fancy, Guns & Ammo, Cosmo, etc and check the “bill me later” box.

    (That’s what I’d do, but I’m horribly passive aggressive.)

  3. I know this won’t help you any…I’m a good tenant, but the last place I lived I had a funny feeling about my landlord’s intentions so I just took my damage deposit back by not paying that amount on my final cheque. I played it like “oh, I just thought it would be easier that way, you know, since you’re always saying I’m such a good tenant.”

    He was completely livid. Which just told me my hunch was correct.

    But yeah, having been both a tenant and a landlord, the residential tenancy board is the way to go for this.

  4. cr0m has it exactly right, and even gave you the link. If he intends to keep it, he must make a claim for damages. If he makes no claim and doesn’t return it:

    … a landlord who does not return or file a claim against the deposit at the end of the tenancy may be required to pay the tenant double the amount of the deposit.

    As your ex-landlord knows all of this, he’s trying to keep it and only pay out to the “squeaky wheels”, so become one. Contact him with your mailing address and tell him you expect the damage deposit mailed immediately or you will be contacting the BC Residential Tenancy Branch to dispute and he may end up paying you double your deposit.

    Read that link that cr0m posted fully, including the PDF on “Returning the Security Deposit or Pet Damage Deposit”.

  5. With the not paying rent thing. Never do that! It is illegal and you could get evicted and lose your damage deposit if you are taken to arbitration. The only thing you can count on is that you landlord wouldn’t bother with arbitration but if they did you would be screwed and have no defense. Never withold rent – even if your heater breaks down in winter. Arbitrators will never rule in your favour is you do this.

    I have always found TRAC (http://www.tenants.bc.ca/factsheets/index.html) to be helpful and if you decide to go to arbitration (now called dispute resolution) there are a bunch of places where you can get free legal advice.

  6. When my wife and I lived in an appartment for a few years, we learned that our appartment manager would do whatever it took to keep the damage deposit. We cleaned the place top to bottom when we moved out (even though it wasn’t cleaned when we moved in). Come inspection day the manager asked if we had turned the oven on to clean mode. We told her no as we scrubbed it by hand. She then turned the knob to “clean” and told us that it would come out of our damage deposit. I had to threaten to sue the management company and report them to the tenant’s union before they would give back the deposit. What a total scam.

  7. I should say that I only did the taking-my-dmg-out-of-my-rent thing because I’d already given my notice and my landlord was an increasingly sleazy cheapskate who never would have taken me to arbitration because he would never want them getting whiff of all his illegal suites. Of course not paying rent is illegal…so is withholding a damage deposit for no reason. Money-wise it ended up how it should have…and how it would have after the pain in the balls of arbitration…except I didn’t have to lose time and wages dealing with arbitration.

    I stayed in touch with the guy in the other suite. When he moved out the landlord kept his deposit because the carpet got wrecked by a crack in the foundation which the landlord had repeatedly refused to fix, and which he subsequently claimed he’d never been told about.

    Even if you’re in the right, who has time to take off work for arbitration? This town is full of sleazebag landlords and occasionally you simply have to take steps before you get screwed.

    Like others have written, your landlord could be waiting to see if your wheel squeaks. But it’s just as likely he’s just lazy and needs a nudge. A politely-phrased letter with your new address will probably yield results even without including a threat of arbitration.

  8. Another thing about damage deposits… shortly after you move in, you and the landlord are supposed to do a walk-through and note all the existing damage on a piece of paper. Then when you move out, you can’t get charged for that stuff. The details are also on that site.

    Here’s the deal about stuff like what stocktaking did. It works, unless you end up in arbitration and then you get fucked. So you’re betting on your landlord not knowing his rights. It’s a tricky call.

    Compared to where I used to live (NYC), BC renters basically have a ton of rights and plenty of resources for defending themselves against illegal landlords. And as a bonus, the residential tenancy agreement that you sign when you move into a place has most of the details on the form, not hidden in a haunted sub-basement under city hall, where chuds fight animated suits of plate armor for the first bite of your tender hu-mon flesh.

    BC is actually a great place to be a renter, if you spend a little extra time getting to know your rights.

  9. Sorry if I seemed a little harsh on the rent scheme. I think my strong reaction comes from one of my previous jobs where I was responsible for helping people prepare for arbitration. People would get evicted for holding back rent when their landlord hadn’t bothered to fix the boiler for a month in December and other horrible jerkish stories.

    I know in your case you could count on the sketchiness of the landlord but there are a lot of absentee landlords whose buildings are managed by management companies. Not only are the management companies complete jerks but they can also be quite litigious.

    My experience has put me in a situation where I assume the worst until it is proven that the person is merely incompetant rather than evil.

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