Q: Can our landlord keep our full security deposit and cite it’s because we broke our lease?
We notified our landlord more than 30 days in advance that our offer was approved on a house and that we would be moving our prior to Oct 1. Our landlord knew months in advance we were house hunting. We asked multiple times what the process was and if we need to find a sublease, were responsible for the remaining lease, etc. She never gave us direction and just told us we have to have the carpets cleaned and turn in the keys. When asked about the security deposit multiple times, we were told we would be notified after the walkthrough. Now, 2 weeks after moving out, we asked again and were told they’re keeping the full deposit ($1075) because we broke our lease early. Can they do this without any notification and if they made no mention when we asked what our responsibility was?
A: In Virginia, a security deposit in a residential lease is to protect the landlord from any property damages that the tenant has caused to the premises during the term of the lease and such damages are identified in a condition report at the time of the tenant's move-out walk through. There may be a clause in your lease that provides for a monetary penalty in the event of an early termination by the tenant of the lease. You should review that provision in the lease. If the early termination provision does not give the landlord a right to take the security deposit as a penalty imposed against the tenant for an early termination or a breach of the lease, then the landlord has breached the lease. You will need to file a lawsuit in the General District Court in the county/city in which the premises is located and seek damages from the Court against the landlord for the amount of the security deposit. The amount of $1,075.00 is a small claims case matter for which no lawyers are permitted to be involved.
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