December 2nd, 2007 3:16 PM by Brian Wess
Notice: Unless they are an Attorney, Colorado Real Estate License holders are prohibited from giving legal advice and are required to recommend that you seek legal or tax advice from attorneys or other qualified advisors. The following is provided for informational purposes only and should not be substituted for legal advice from attorneys or other qualified advisors.
With the increase in foreclosures over the past year and a half or so, I have been receiving more and more questions from renters. The number one of these has been along the same lines as this one that I recently received from Alison:
"I have not received my deposit back from a house I rented in Colorado Springs. I have called and faxed with questions regarding the return of my deposit by at the end of 60 days I have heard nothing and not received my money. I left the property in fantastic condition. What now???"
Because I believe it's important that people know their rights and are treated fairly, while I am not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice, I can show people where to find information to assist them and tell how I handled a similar situation back in the days when I was a renter.
When I bought my house and moved out of my apartment that I had been living in for 5 years, I left it in perfect condition very similar to how Alison describes in her situation. The new complex landlord, who was the primary reason I as a bachelor decided to stop being a renter and invest my money in a house rather than continue to make money for someone else, tried to keep my security deposit for "cleaning the property". Unfortunately for him at that time I was an experienced renter. When I moved out I made sure to make a detailed walk through video of the condition I left the property in.
Knowing my rights as a Colorado renter, I wrote a certified, return receipt letter to the landlord and notified him that I had such video evidence. I also notified him that because there were no damages to the property other than normal wear and tear, if he failed to return the security deposit to me in full within 14 days of the date of the letter I would take him to small claims court where I would be eligible for a judgment of up to 3 times the security deposit PLUS attorneys fees and legal costs.
Needless to say, I received the full amount of my security deposit in a check the following week.
While our justice system does not require that you have one, I always recommend that a person seek the assistance of an attorney experienced in the field in question to assist them with legal advice and representation.
Just as someone who attempts to navigate all the complexities and pitfalls involved in a real estate transaction by themselves, the old legal adage remains true, "He who represents himself has a fool for a client and a fool for a lawyer".
Always remember... you don't know what you don't know, and what you don't know can hurt you or at the very least be a very costly educational experience.
The following paragraph is from the Colorado Department of Housing's Web site
Return of the Deposit - When a tenant leaves a rental unit, the landlord has 30 days (unless stipulated differently in the lease) to return the security deposit or send a written list of damages and the amount of money owed for repairs to the tenant. The above must be sent to the tenant's last known address. If a security deposit is wrongly withheld, the tenant could receive a judgment of three times of the amount wrongfully withheld, and court costs and attorney's fees. A tenant may utilize small claims court for this purpose.