Ask Andy: Security deposit - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Andy Wise

Ask Andy: Security deposit

A security deposit is just that -- a deposit to "secure" a rental property.

"Susan" of East Memphis probably should have done a better job of getting to know her new landlord before she put down her $700 deposit.

She says her lease was supposed to start June 1, but the landlord did not give her the keys or any kind of access.  She says he gave no explanation for the delay.

So three days later, she tells him her personal circumstances have changed and the deal's over, but he tells her he's keeping her $700 for bailing out on her lease:

"Can he keep my $700? I never took possession of the keys, and the $700 was a security deposit to be used to cover any damage repair once I vacated and by law was to be kept in a separate account -- not to assist him in 'floating financially' till he has steady rent coming in."

"Legally, unless she otherwise agreed that the deposit would be non-refundable, she would be entitled to the money back, especially given the fact that apparently the landlord breached the lease first," says Kevin Snider, founding attorney of Snider & Horner in Germantown, TN (, and one of my most trusted legal sources.

But William Jones of The Jones Law Firm in East Memphis (, another lawyer I trust, says, "If, however, the property was available for the tenant to move in on the June 1st date, then the tenant is in breach of the contract and would be responsible for payment of the ENTIRE TERM OF THE LEASE, regardless of the conflicting terms."

To get her security deposit back, Susan will have to prove her landlord would not let her access the property on June 1st. The change in her personal circumstance is not enough.

She has to prove he breached the contract.

A security deposit is a landlord's safeguard to insure the tenant takes possession of the property.

But a landlord can't keep it if you can't get in the door by no fault of your own.

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