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Disputes over security deposits are very common in New York small claims courts. If you are a tenant renting in New York and your landlord refuses to return your security deposit within 14 days of you moving out, you have legal options available under New York security deposit law. You can also send a security deposit demand letter and if all that fails you can choose to sue your landlord in New York small claims court.
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Why is Sending a New York Security Deposit Demand Letter Important?
A demand letter is a letter that outlines your requests to your landlord. There are three important reasons why you should send a security deposit demand letter before filing a lawsuit in New York small claims court:
A demand letter signals to a landlord that you are serious about getting your security deposit back and are willing to spend time and money to get your security deposit back.
When you let your landlord know that you intend to go to small claims court if they don't return your security deposit, it can have a big effect on them returning your security deposit without having to go to court.
When to Send Your Landlord a Security Demand Letter in New York
New York security deposit law states that your landlord has 14 days from when you move out to return your security deposit. If your landlord has not returned your security deposit within 14 days of you moving out you may want to consider sending a New York security deposit demand letter.
Sample New York Security Demand Letter
Below is a sample New York security deposit demand letter, asking a landlord to return a security deposit.
To be effective, your letter should answer the following questions:
How much money are you owed? Ie. how much was your security deposit.
What is your contact information? How can your landlord reach you?
Where should your landlord send the payment?
Why you are entitled to a return of a portion or all of the deposit?
Reference the New York state law that requires your landlord to return your security deposit in a timely manner.
Reference the penalties for not returning the deposit as required by law. See the section below on New York Security Deposit law.
Consider giving your landlord 14 days to respond to you. Include this in your letter, and state that if they do not respond within that time, you intend to sue them in New York small claims court.
How to Send Your New York Security Deposit Demand Letter to Your Landlord
Send your New York security deposit demand letter to your landlord via email or mail. For letters that you mail, consider the following:
Tracking. Make sure to track your demand letter. With tracking, you will know if the letter reached your landlord’s mailbox.
Signature Required. You do not necessarily need a signature request. When you send a letter with your landlord’s signature requested, the postal carrier must hand-deliver the letter and your landlord must sign for the letter. If you are sending this letter to an individual, it can be difficult for the post office to obtain the signature.
Overview of New York Security Deposit Law
Below we have summarized and answered some of the most common questions regarding New York Security Deposit Laws.
How much can my landlord charge for a security deposit in New York?
In New York, security deposit law dictates that the max a landlord can request in security deposits is equal to 1 month's rent. New York General Obligations section 7-108(1)(a).
How long does my landlord have to return my security deposit in New York?
According to New York security deposit law, your landlord has 14 days to provide you and any co-tenants with an itemized statement explaining the grounds for all of the security deposits kept as well as any amount of the security deposit not kept. If the 14 days go by and your landlord has not given you the statement and remainder of the security deposit, they lose any right to keep a portion of the security deposit and must return it to you in full. New York General Obligations section 7-108(1)(e).
What if the landlord is withholding my security deposit illegally?
Under New York security deposit law, if any landlord is found to be violating any of the above provisions, they are liable for the actual damages (the amount of the security deposit). Even worse, if a landlord is found to have purposely and knowingly violated any of these provisions, then they are liable for punitive damages up to twice the amount of the security deposit on top of the actual damages they are responsible for.New York General Obligations section 7-108(1)(g).
Learn more about New York security deposit law here.
Next Steps After Sending the Demand Letter
If your landlord doesn’t respond to your New York security deposit demand letter, you have several options including filing a complaint against your landlord with the New York Attorney General or suing your landlord in New York small claims.
Consider filing a complaint with the New York Attorney General
The New York Attorney General handles a wide range of disputes, which include consumer complaints and landlord-tenant issues. For example, New York’s Attorney General investigates complaints against landlords for failing to return security deposits.
How to file a complaint with the New York Attorney General:
Before filing a complaint, you are required to try to resolve the matter with your landlord.
File your complaint using the online complaint form.
Suing your landlord over your Security Deposit in New York Small Claims Court
If you are unable to settle your dispute with your landlord out of court, consider taking your landlord to New York small claims court. New York small claims court is an affordable and efficient way for tenants to resolve disputes against landlords. For example, if you want a landlord to return your security deposit and the landlord refuses to return it you can sue for the security deposit in New York small claims court. Small claims judges tend to be very experienced with New York rental security deposit law as security deposit cases are very common in small claims.
Chief Legal Architect & Co-Founder @ People Clerk. Camila holds a juris doctor degree and is a certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.