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Rent Coach: Can my landlord charge me more than my security deposit for repairs?

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Q. I recently moved out of a studio apartment that I had rented for three years in the West Village. I didn’t leave the apartment in the best condition and some of the damage was my fault.  I didn’t really expect to get my $2,500 security deposit back.

However, after I moved out, my landlord called me to say that it cost $800 more than that to make repairs. Do I really have to pay him?

A. Absolutely! A security deposit is designed to protect a landlord from having to go after a tenant to collect monetary damages after the tenant moves out. It is not, however, a cap on a tenant’s liability.

If you caused damage to the property and the landlord can demonstrate that the reasonable cost of the repairs was $800 more than your security deposit, you owe that money.

In the event that you do not settle your obligations with your landlord, he could file a claim against you in small claims court. If you choose to ignore it, he will ultimately get a default judgment against you and presumably could collect on it by levying your assets (e.g. bank accounts) or garnishing your wages.

If you do not dispute that you were responsible for the alleged damage and you are satisfied that $800 is a reasonable cost above and beyond your security deposit to repair it, you should send your landlord a check immediately.


Mike Akerly is a New York City real estate attorney, landlord, and real estate broker. He is also the publisher of the Greenwich Village blog VillageConfidential.     

Note: The information provided here is for informational purposes only. It should not be construed as legal advice and cannot substitute for the advice of a licensed professional applying their specialized knowledge to the particular circumstances of your case.

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