Getting Your Deposit Back

Below are some frequently asked questions about security deposits.

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If any part of the deposit is not refundable, you must be informed of this in writing when the landlord receives the deposit.  If your lease agreement specifically says the deposit is not refundable then you don’t get it back – otherwise you do.

When you move, your landlord must return your deposit, or explain in writing why they have not done so.  You need to give your landlord an address where they can mail the deposit, it doesn’t have to be returned until after you have moved.  Legitimate reasons for your landlord to keep a part, or all, of your deposit would be:

          • if you owed rent;
          • if you damaged the property;
          • if your lease or rental agreement stated that when you moved, money could be deducted from the deposit for cleaning or other maintenance costs;
          • if your rental agreement stated that the deposit was not refundable.

If your landlord keeps a part, or all, of your deposit, they must provide you with an itemized list of any deductions made.  The landlord must send this list and any remaining deposit money to you within 30 days of your moving out.  It is your obligation to give your landlord a forwarding address.

When you move out of a place that you have been renting, if your landlord does not voluntarily return your deposit to you or provide you with the itemized list of deductions within 30 days, you may sue the landlord or manager for the deposit plus a $100 penalty in Small Claims Court.

Before you can sue in Small Claims Court and get the $100 penalty, Utah law requires that you give a notice to the landlord demanding a return of the security deposit or itemized list of deductions within five (5) calendar days of the notice.  

You do not need an attorney to file in Small Claims Court.  You can file by simply going to the clerk of the nearest justice or circuit court in your county.  The clerk of the court will help you fill out an affidavit which lists the name and address of the person you are suing, how much you are claiming, and a brief explanation of why the landlord owes you money.  When you sue, you are the plaintiff in the case.

The clerk will tell you how much it costs to file and to serve the defendant (landlord) with the papers and tell you when to come back for the trial.  If you cannot afford the filing fee, tell the court clerk.  You can sue without paying the fee.  You are responsible for getting the papers served on your landlord by the sheriff.  The sheriff's fees will also be waived if you cannot pay.

The trial date will be at least five days after the day you file with the clerk.  Before the day of the trial, gather all your receipts, your lease agreement or contracts with the landlord and any other documents that may be useful as evidence in your favor, including proof that you gave your landlord a forwarding address.  If you have any witnesses who can provide evidence in your favor, ask them to come to court with you for the trial.  If the witnesses will not come on their own, ask the clerk to subpoena them, which means to command them to be present or face a penalty.  You might want to go to court a few days early to watch and learn how the proceedings go.

Your landlord might file a counter suit asking for rent, damages or other money they say you owe them.  If this happens, the judge will decide both cases at once.

On the day of your trial, arrive at the courthouse early and check with the clerk to find out in which courtroom your trial will take place.  The judge will announce your case and ask if everyone is ready.  If you have any questions, ask them then.  You will take an oath, swearing to tell the truth.  Then tell your story as best you can and present your evidence and witnesses.  After the landlord has taken the oath and told their side of the story, the judge will make a decision in the case.  The decision is called the judgment.  If it is in your favor, the judge will give you a judgment against the landlord.  The judgment will say how much is owing.  The clerk of the court can assist you in collecting your judgment by explaining execution and garnishment.  Ask for help.

Either person can appeal within ten days and get a NEW trial before a District Court Judge.  This trial will be much like the first, but you will need to present everything over again.

The information in this site is not intended as legal advice.
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