Can I Get My Security Deposit Back after a Hurricane?

Posted on: October 11, 2021
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Can I get my security deposit back if I break my lease because my unit was destroyed by a hurricane or other Act of God?

If your unit was damaged enough to be unfit to live in because of a hurricane or other “Act of God” you may be able to end your lease early.

If you have the right to break your lease, then you should be able to get back your security deposit. But your landlord can keep money out of your deposit for damage beyond “normal wear and tear” that you let happen to the unit.

Use this link for more information on whether the damage to your unit makes your unit unfit before you decide to break your lease and move.  If that information is not enough for you to make a decision, try to get help from an attorney as soon as you can.

The amount the landlord would keep is for damage that happened before the hurricane or other Act of God. The amount the landlord keeps could be for fees or rent that you owed before the hurricane or other Act of God.

You could have an issue getting some or all of this money back if hurricane damaged items that you or your guests had also damaged.

Example: someone in your house damages a wall before the hurricane. Then the hurricane ruins that same wall.  Some courts might decide that you owe for the damage you caused to the wall before the wall was ruined by the hurricane.

What should I do if I have to end my lease early because of the hurricane damage or other Act of God?

If you want to get out of your lease because a hurricane or other Act of God made your place unfit to live in, you need to tell your landlord in writing that you are ending your lease early.

Write down that you are ending your lease early because your place was destroyed or is unfit to live in because of a hurricane or other Act of God.

Take good pictures of the unit. Take pictures that show what kind of shape the unit is in.  Write down how the destruction made your place unfit to live in. Give specific examples of things that make your place unfit to live in.

When you write to your landlord to end your lease it can help to send pictures of the damage to your place.  You can use a text message or email.

Also be sure to keep any pictures you have of your place from the time before the disaster. Those pictures would show the damage was from the disaster, and not your fault.

Contact a lawyer if your landlord sues you later for ending your lease early, or if your landlord reports a debt to credit agencies.

How do I get my security deposit back if I move out because my unit was destroyed by a hurricane or other Act of God?

After you are completely out of your unit, turn in the key or tell your landlord in writing where you left the key.  Text message or email works for this.

Be sure to take all of your own things with you when you leave.

Clean up anything you changed in the unit as best as you can. Throw away any your trash or things you are not taking with you.

Take pictures and videos to show what shape the unit was in when you moved out.  Tell your landlord in writing that you are willing to do a walk-through inspection of your unit with your landlord.  If your landlord tells you, but not in writing, that they will not do a walk-through, send them a text, email, or letter saying that you understand they do not want to do a walk-through inspection. This way you have something in writing about it.

Once you are out of your unit and returned your key, you need to tell the landlord in writing that you want your deposit back. You must include a forwarding address where the landlord can reply or send you the refund.

The forwarding address you give the landlord does not have to be your actual address. The address can be any place where you can receive mail.

It is best you send this demand letter to your landlord on the same day you return the keys.

If you can, use certified mail, return receipt requested, to send your security deposit demand letter. This can help you show that your landlord actually got the letter.

If you cannot send the letter by certified mail, send a text message or email message with the same information that is in the letter you mail (a request for the deposit and a forwarding address) may be acceptable here.

Your landlord has 30 days from the day he or she gets your letter to return your deposit or to tell you in writing why he or she is keeping all or some of the deposit.

If your landlord does not respond to your written demand for a security deposit refund within 30 days of getting your letter, then he or she has “willfully” failed to return your deposit. That means you may have the right to get back three times the amount of your deposit.

After the 30-day period is over, you can sue your landlord in small claims court.

You do not need an attorney to go to small claims court.

But if you hire a lawyer the court may order the landlord pay attorney fees to you. The amount of these fees may cover all or some of what you may actually owe to an attorney.

You can find more information about the security deposit recovery process through small claims court here.

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