So I gave back a deposit but it looks like the tenant is going to sue me.

What should I expect?

The deposit was for 500 bucks minus the late fees and prorated fees for days he moved in earlier than his contract date. It’s about 100 bucks that I kept but the tenant is crying for it and said he would take me to the supreme court for it.

You need a copy of your state landlord/tenant laws regarding deposits. Then just follow them to the letter and inform your tenant exactly what you have done. Don’t let your tenant scare you. It is a lot of trouble to file a lawsuit, and requires money paid upfront to a lawyer.

Send your former tenant a letter detailing how you complied with the law.

If you didn’t comply with the law (ignorance is no excuse) then give him his darn money back and that is your cost of learning how to be a good and profitable landlord.

Someone once told me that every lesson he learned, and REALLY learned, cost him about $500. Either way, get it done and move on. Focus on the next tenant.


If the tenant takes you to small claims, the judge will order the return of the late fees, regardless of what your lease agreement says, or even what the law allows.

The judge will allow you to deduct prorated rents (usually).

Late fees and fines always fall on deaf ears in court.

That said, it’s really good to take move-in pictures, with the tenant standing in all your photos waving hi. You can have some fun with this, because the tenant thinks it protects him. It actually protects you.

After the tenant moves out, you show the before and after shots of the house, and the tenant just walks. In court, the judge will rule in your favor, after seeing the photographs.

This works every single time. Tenants NEVER leave the place the same as they found it. There’s hardly ever a time when there’s only wear and tear.

Tenants use up what you offer, until they get sick of themselves, and then want to move to someplace else to ‘use up.’ That is, if they don’t have something to lose.

The tenants with enough to lose (not including a cosigner breathing down their necks) are often desperate to get their money back from me. By the time our exit walk-through arrives, their eyes are bloodshot and their fingers are raw to the bone from scrubbing and cleaning.

The place is spotless, and I can see through the windows. The appliances are all shiny, and it’s all a beautiful thing.

In your case, if your tenants only gave you five hundred dollars, and you could only justify ‘keeping’ one hundred dollars, which included late fees and pro-rated rents…this would indicate that your tenants took pretty good ‘care of YOU.’ I don’t know.

They’re already out, so forgive the late fees, but keep the pro-rated rents. It’ll represent a small triumph for your tenants, and keep you from getting all tripped up over ‘nothing.’ :beer :beer

I don’t get what the tenant is crying about. Everything is in writing. The late fees too. I don’t really care if I go to court I have everything to back why I kept a portion of the deposit. If they make me pay it back, oh well.

Oh, come on!!! Are you really going to risk going to court for $100?

What’s your time worth.

Don’t indulge your inner bitchiness of drama and trauma for the sake of being right, or the principal of the thing, or pride. You look like a turd doing that.

Your defensiveness of your position here, just makes me think you’re your own worst enemy.

You may be exactly in the right here. I don’t dispute that. But you are getting all hung up on pennies, when you should be focusing on making the dollars.

All that said, I’ve been exactly where you’re at. It’s hard to let go, and let a renter win, but that’s when I didn’t have a lot going on, and I could obsess on things, and be a complete dick-head, because “I could.”

That’s also grossly amateurish, and genuinely unsophisticated.

Fight for the big fish, and let the minnows go free.

Just saying.

Good luck whatever happens.

I use potos also. It shuts them down…quick.

My wife says that they move in until the place smells like them and then they want to move to a place that smells like paint.

Bluemoon, I agree with your wife 110%

I think that’s partly why offering to repaint a unit after it starts looking worn, is a good retention strategy. I’ve never had a tenant who didn’t both enjoy and appreciate new paint. It’s a hassle navigating around the tenant’s furnishings, but I believe it pays off.

I’m kind of easy going with people that take care of my property and make sure I get paid. Me, I wouldn’t have kept it unless the place was in need of stuff or the guy was a jerk. My goal is not to make money off late fees at all. My policy is to waive late fees once per lease period, but I never tell the tenants they have this option.

That means I still enforce it for the people that habitually pay late but give the gal whose ex isn’t paying his child support a few extra days to get it together.

I do lots of little things for my tenants, like tilling a garden for them. My leases are up over the summer and a garden makes them less likely to move. I don’t mind doing it either. My current average for tenants with a garden is 4 years at my houses. Painting is probably another thing that is easy enough to do that means a lot.

Make them take you to court. Tenants are usually full of hot air and never will. If they do give them the $100 and be done with it.