What Can I Do if I Don’t Get My Security Deposit Back?
What If My Landlord Doesn't Send a Refund or a Letter?
If, after the 21(no written lease) or 30(written lease) days, the landlord has not sent you a letter or refund, you need to follow certain steps to protect your rights and make sure you get your deposit back.
The steps you should follow are:
Step 1. Fill out the Request for Return of Security Deposit form (not interactive; you must print, then fill out the form). You need to send this request to your landlord before you can sue them.
Step 2. Send the form to your former landlord. Use Certified Mail; Return Receipt Requested. If you aren’t sure how to do this, ask about Certified Mail at your local U.S. Post Office.
Step 3. Keep a photo-copy of the form for yourself.
Step 4. Hold on to the Return Receipt when it comes back in the mail.
Step 5. Wait 7 days (from the date your landlord receives it) for your landlord to respond to the notice.
Note: If your landlord did not sign for the first mailing, send another copy by regular mail and wait 10 days (3 days for delivery plus the 7 day notice period).
What If My Landlord Still Won't Return My Deposit?
If your landlord doesn't refund the deposit after the seven day notice is over you can:
- Sue your landlord yourself in Small Claims Court. (See Small Claims section below.)
- Try to get a private attorney to take your case on "contingency." Contingency means that the lawyer will only get paid if you win your case. Also, the judge can order your landlord to pay for your attorney fees where the landlord kept your deposit "wrongfully."
What If My Landlord Sends Me A Letter, But Takes Too Much Out of My Security Deposit?
If your landlord sends you a letter on time that tells you that they are keeping some or all of your security deposit, but you think that amount is too high, you can still sue the landlord in small claims court. You can follow the instructions below to do this.
Note: You may not get double damages.
How Do I Sue In Small Claims Court?
Small Claims Court is meant to be used by people who need to work out legal problems, and are doing that without a lawyer. We have put together a toolkit for preparing and filing your claim in small claims court. Here, you will find all the forms you need to file in Small Claims Court, and tools that will automatically fill out these forms for you based on your answers to some questions. Visit the toolkit for more information about how it works. If you are worried about finding and filling out these forms yourself, the toolkit is a good place to start.
Your local Maine District Court also has all of the forms you will need to start a Small Claims action against your landlord. They also have an easy to read booklet explaining the Small Claims Court process. Just ask the Court Clerk for the forms and the booklet. Or go here to view the online version on their website.
Small Claims Court is for ordinary people. If you cannot pay the filing fee, tell the clerk you want to file an "Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees" and an "Indigency Affidavit." The clerk will give you forms to fill out. You can also find fillable versions of these forms on our website. These forms ask for financial information, to show that you cannot afford the filing fee. You can also use our Small Claims form toolkit to help you fill out these forms.
When you fill out your claim form, ask the court to award you double the amount of your security deposit. The Court may award you double the amount if it finds that your landlord acted "wrongfully" by not returning your security deposit after you sent the Request for Return of Security Deposit Form. Also ask for your court costs.
Note: If your landlord lives in your building and there are 5 living units or fewer, then you can still sue to get your deposit back but you cannot get twice that amount.
Published: August 2016