Inquiry: “I rented a room in a five-bedroom home in June 2009. I paid my first month’s rent and security deposit to the OWNER of the home. After paying the money, I was told that the OWNER actually leased the entire house to another tenant whom I had not met prior to paying the money. The other tenant is actually sub-leasing my room and three other rooms in the house. Two days after I moved in, a car ran into the house causing it to be uninhabitable according to inspectors and fire department. So the driver’s insurance company paid for hotel rooms for everyone until the house can be occupied again. In the meantime, the leaseholder (by the way, I never entered into an agreement with the leaseholder) skipped out on the 10 months remaining on his 12-month lease. As a result, the OWNER is now telling me that I have to move because she is renting the home to someone else and is not going to be subletting. The Owner is telling me I have to collect my security deposit from the leaseholder, even though I paid it to the OWNER and have a receipt signed by the OWNER. Is the OWNER correct? I heard the leaseholder skipped to Florida and we are in Maryland. I have moving expense and other damages as a result of this whole incident.”
Response: You have rented a room in a house commencing June 2009 and paid a security deposit to the owner. You later found out that the room had already been rented by the owner to another tenant. After you moved in, an accident caused the house to be uninhabitable and insurance is paying for your hotel room.
The other tenant has quit the premises breaching their year lease. The owner has verbally evicted you so that she can rent to another tenant. She is telling you that you have to collect my security deposit from the absconded tenant and you want to know if this is true.
Put your request for the security deposit in writing and send it to her certified mail, return receipt requested. It is a good idea to put all communications in writing. Furthermore, your landlord has breached your agreement with her. She rented the unit to you and is required to abide the terms of her agreement. She cannot evict you simply because she wants to now rent to someone else. You may hold her responsible for your damages caused by her breach of your agreement. You have a case against her and if you play your cards right, you could be entitled to up to 3 x the security deposit!
“If the landlord fails to return the security deposit, you have the right to sue for up to three times the deposit, plus reasonable attorney’s fees.” Maryland Attorney General website, Landlords and Tenants: Tips on Avoiding Disputes
Visit the Maryland Attorney General website by clicking on the link provided. Read the tips and follow the recommendations to prevail against your unscrupulous landlord.
This article was originally published on September 21, 2009. It has been revised and republished on May 9, 2014.