Q: Is pressing charges on a landlord the only/best approach?
Hello. So I recently moved into a new house with a new landlord and new roommates. We each paid 500 upfront for first months rent and each paid 500 for a deposit. We all signed the lease and lease was sent to our parents as cosigners. The following day, a cosigner (mine) who was set to return from a trip, had a heart attack and couldn't return home. Everyone signed the lease except one cosigner (mine), who was and currently is in the ICU for a major heart attack. Then the landlord cashed the checks. Everything went through except a roommates (Eric) deposit. The landlord then proceeded to say because the cosigner is in the hospital and the deposit didn't go through the lease was never activated. Only upon all signatures was it active. He told us to find somewhere else asap. He told my roommate (liam) and I, he was keeping our deposit and rent. Eric, since his never cleared, its whatever to him. I consulted some officials I know in law enforcement and they advised me to press charges.
A: From your facts it is acceptable for the landlord to "terminate" the agreement (technically no complete agreement was reached). However, the landlord must return all money (since no lease agreement was created). If the rental was occupied (even for a short duration), the landlord can deduct a reasonable pro rata daily rental fee. Beyond that , the landlord is clearly violating Colorado law.
You can send a letter (with or without a lawyer's letterhead) requesting a full refund. Beyond that, you will likely have to file a civil lawsuit (small claims--which is designed for non-lawyers). Be aware that the landlord is clearly violating Colorado law, so you should be entitled to additional recovery (in relation to the cost of the lawsuit--don't start thinking millions...) if you win (which would appear very likely).
Finding lawyers that handle landlord-tenant (esp. for the tenant) can be very hard because it is generally not profitable for attorneys. If you are a college student, there is a legal assistance available for students (usually at the student centers). You can also try Colorado Legal Services (CLS).
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