Q: I have a close friend that gave her potential landlord $250 toward a deposit on an apartment. She gave this money by way of a money order.
She decided to not take the apartment and the landlord opted not to give her the $250 back. She did not sign a lease or any other papers. Can she get this money back?
A: What was the explicit arrangement between the landlord and your friend? Did she agree to pay this cash up front in order to secure the apartment? Did they discuss what would happen to the deposit in the event she did not end up leasing the apartment?
In the absence of any conversation about the deposit check, the landlord should not keep the check. Your friend should stop by the rental office and drop off a letter to the landlord asking to get the check back.
Should the landlord continue to refuse to return the check, and it has already been deposited into their accounts, your friend should look up the landlord-tenant laws of the state and city and see what rights she has and if there is anyone at the state or city level who can assist her in putting some pressure on the landlord.
Her final option would be to sue the landlord in small claims court for the return of the cash.
Next time, she shouldn’t give a landlord money until she has signed the lease or until they spell out an agreement on what happens to the cash in case the lease is not executed.