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Recover your Damage Deposit

What should you do when your landlord fails to return your deposit or fails to send a written statement?

  • Know your rights as a tenant and review Mn. Statute 504B.178: Important points from the statute:
    • A landlord must return your deposit within three weeks of termination of tenancy, or within five days of legal condemnation for reasons not due to willful, malicious or irresponsible conduct of the tenant, and after receipt of the tenant’s mailing address, OR furnish to the tenant a written statement showing the specific reason for the withholding of the deposit or any portion thereof.
    • The only reasons that a landlord can withhold your deposit include: remedying tenant defaults in the payment of rent or other funds due to the landlord pursuant of an agreement, and restoring the premises to their condition at commencement of tenancy, other than ordinary wear and tear. The burden of proving the reason for withholding all or any portion of the deposit shall be on the landlord.
    • Any landlord who fails to provide a written statement within three weeks of termination of tenancy, within five days when the tenant leaves due to legal condemnation not due to willful, malicious or irresponsible conduct, or transfer or return of a deposit after receipt of the tenant’s mailing address, is liable to the tenant for the amount equal to the portion of the deposit withheld by the landlord and interest thereon. This means that if your deposit was $500, your landlord could owe you $500 + $500 and one percent per annum interest. If you lived in that apartment for two years, that would be $1,010.
    • Finally, bad faith retention by a landlord of a deposit, shall subject the landlord to punitive damages not to exceed $500 for each deposit in addition to the previous damages outlined above. Retention of a deposit is presumed to be bad faith unless the landlord returns the deposit within two weeks after the commencement of ANY action for the recovery of the deposit. This means, that once you file a claim, the landlord has two weeks to respond in order for the retention of your deposit to not be considered in bad faith.
  • File a claim at your courthouse civil filing desk in order to begin proceedings. In Minneapolis, for example, it can take up to 7-8 weeks for a court date to be set.
  • When filing, it is vital to have certain information such as the defendant’s address. In many leases, the legal address of the defendant is stated. You can call the Secretary of States’ office in order to get the official address for incorporated businesses and their agents in Minnesota. The Metro area number is 651-296-2803 and for Greater MN it is 1-877-551-6767.

In the end, be sure to look out for yourself. A landlord knows that many of their tenants cannot afford to take the time off for court. The more knowledge you have, and well prepared you are, the better, so be sure to read the statute.

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