The most common is that the landlord did something naughty and you have been forced to leave the unit or he is keeping your deposit after you have already moved.
Now is not the time to play the victim and ask, "Why me?" Now is the time to make the landlord sorry he violated this protected institution.
Now, here is a disclaimer: VANDALISM IS ILLEGAL.
DO NOT go back to the property and deface it.
DO NOT harass or threaten the landlord with violence.
Everything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.
Why risk going to jail when you can get your money back legally? Take all the information you have e.
the rental agreement, receipts of payment, e-mails or other documented correspondences, signed photos and organize it chronologically.
Go consult a lawyer.
Present them with the evidence and see what their take is on the situation.
If you have sufficient evidence, they will tell you to move forward.
If it was particularly bad, like entering the place without your knowledge and stealing things, then you need to file a police report.
Launching a criminal case against a landlord is a lot less common than a civil case.
If they kept your deposit for an illegal reason, this is the time to launch a civil case.
You will be in small claims court.
While there can be a lot of drama in these court rooms, like some of those lawyer shows on TV, there is one big difference; legal counsel is not allowed.
This means you are the lawyer.
You may only file the case at a particular court house, as one court house handles all the legal business of a particular area in the county.
Sue for the maximum amount under the law.
Depending on your situation, this could even be double the deposit if it was not kept in good faith, meaning the landlord did not safe guard the deposit or spent it.
Filing your case will include some service charges which, when you win, will be included in the sum the landlord will owe you.
One of them is a cost of service, which is the act of letting the landlord know he is being sued.
You will need to know the address of the landlord in order for him to be served their notice to appear in court.
If he lived onsite, this will be easy.
If he lives off-site, it will be harder, especially if you have been sending your checks to a PO Box.
When I needed to know where my landlord's corporate office was, I called in pretending I was a confused flower delivery person and needed their address to deliver some flowers to a receptionist.
There are other ways, like contacting the post office directly.
They will give the street address and phone number of the box holder if the box was registered under a business.
After that, do some homework.
Go see a case.
Yes, you can just walk in and watch.
On your court day, you will go confidently into the court room, well dressed and well organized to present your case to a judge, commissioner or a judge pro tems (a lawyer acting as a judge.
) You will be the plaintiff.
You can also expect to see the landlord there, as he is the defendant.
Be calm and collected.
Do not be intimidated by the landlord.
He already has your money and there is little else they can do other than keep it should the case not go your way.
Before your case, the officers of the court will ask you to try and settle your differences outside of the courtroom.
If the landlord does not bring you a check, do not be discouraged.
Tell the officer that you did not reach an agreement and that you would like to state your case.
Refer to the judge as "your honor" and ask permission to do things, like present your evidence.
If you were not sworn in, ask to do so.
This will put you and the landlord under oath.
Just remember that everything you say from then on out is under oath and if you lie about anything, it will be perjury.
The plus side is that the same rule applies to the landlord.
Present your evidence and your case.
After you are done, the landlord will state his case.
Do not interrupt him.
Do not call him a liar and inform him that his pants, are indeed, on fire.
Wait until he is done.
If there are direct discrepancies between what the landlord says and what evidence you have, ask the judge if you may please rebut.
After the rebuttal and the landlords answering of the points you raise, the judge will dismiss both of you as he renders his verdict.
Depending on the jurisdiction, you may receive your verdict in a few days or in a few weeks.
If the judgment is in your favor, hurray! But the landlord can file an appeal.
If the judge rules for the landlord, you may not appeal it.
Just realize it sucks, move on and do not let it happen again.