A landlord in British Columbia was sued by their tenant for allegedly keeping a security deposit without allowing them to move in. But was this a shady landlord, or was something else going on?
How security deposits work
A security deposit is separate from your monthly rent payment. It’s typically given upfront to secure your place as the tenant before moving in.
With rents skyrocketing lately, it’s become increasingly difficult for many to move into new rentals, as scraping together an additional rent payment plus the first month’s rent gets harder and harder in this economy. Many are turning to security deposit loans to get the money they need to move, as borrowing from family members or saving thousands of dollars quickly is getting tougher.
There’s no standard for what a security deposit will run, but it’s usually at least a month’s rent. The landlord will keep this in an escrow account and refund it when you move out. However, if any damages or excessive cleaning must be done after, your landlord has the right to deduct those costs from your deposit and send you the remaining balance (with an itemized invoice).
Your landlord also has the right to request additional deposits for pets or if you have poor credit. There’s no set standard for how quickly they must return your deposit, as the laws vary by state.
The case of the landlord and would-be tenant
Darin Williamson is a BC-based landlord, renting a fully furnished room for $800/month. He received an inquiry from Chinoso Uche-Nweke about the room and, after applying, was approved to rent for $800 plus a security deposit of $400. He was scheduled to move in May 1, 2022.
What the plaintiff claimed
Uche-Nweke alleges that after paying the security deposit, he realized on May 2nd that the room was three hours away from his university, making the commute difficult. He then claimed he reached out to Williamson with the realization that he would need to break the lease, requesting the return of his $400 deposit. Uche-Nweke then claims on May 3rd, he was refused access to the room on May 3rd by Williamson, and Williamson then kicked him out while keeping the deposit.
Uche-Nweke then sued for $400 + $1545.17 for accommodations he had to take, plus an additional $130 for “discriminatory comments” he claimed Williamson made.
What the defendant claimed
WIlliamson’s story differed significantly. He claimed that on May 1, Uche-Nweke sent him an e-transfer of the $400 but not the first month’s rent. Uche-Nweke then broke three appointments to pay the rent and move in (Uche-Nweke claimed it was a six-hour bus ride to the home, and that’s why it was so difficult to show up).
Text records between the two showed that Williamson would still allow him to rent the room if he e-transferred “today’s rent” immediately. Uche-Nweke wrote back, saying they would try and still wanted the room. The next day, May 2nd, he told Williamson the place was too far away and that he wouldn’t be moving in. Once receiving this text, Williamson refused to return the deposit, claiming Uche-Nweke cost him $800 that he would’ve made if he had rented it to another tenant.
The case was tried before a BC Civil Resolution Tribunal, which found the case in favor of Williamson, the landlord. There was no evidence of any discriminatory comments made to Uche-Nweke, nor did it appear that Williamson acted in any way that would warrant a return of the security deposit. Instead, the tribunal determined that Uche-Nweke was in breach of contract and was not eligible to have his deposit returned as it helped offset costs Williamson incurred.
Name: Michael Bertini
Job Title: Consultant
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