Our firm has taken on a wide variety of various landlord/tenant cases, from statutory violations to personal injuries from premises liability cases to preventing a person from unlawfully being ejected from their home, among others. We often find that a lot of tenants are completely unaware of many of the basic rules that apply to them as renters of real estate.
One of the biggest is the law as it relates to security deposits. Often, a landlord decides to keep a security deposit unjustifiably, fails to follow the statutory procedure, and ends up unlawfully taking the security deposit of a tenant. RSA 540-A:7 governs the return of security deposit to tenants. Generally, the security deposit must be returned within thirty (30) days from the termination of the tenancy. However, some landlords just decide to keep it and “dare” the tenants to do something about it. This is most unfortunate, but as a tenant, this creates a very specific cause of action against the landlord.
First, if the landlord does not return the security deposit, they must comply with RSA 540-A:7. Specifically, they must “provide the tenant with a written, itemized list of any damages for which the landlord claims the tenant is liable, which shall indicate with particularity the nature of any repair necessary to correct any damage and satisfactory evidence that repair necessary to correct these damages has been or will be completed. Satisfactory evidence may include, but not be limited to, receipts for purchased repair materials and labor estimates, bills, or invoices indicating the actual or estimated cost thereof.” This essentially boils down to forcing the landlord to prove, specifically, why they are entitled to keep the security deposit. Often times, the landlord fails to do this and it creates a cause of action for the tenant against the landlord.
This failure to comply with RSA 540-A can entitle the tenant to costs, attorney’s fees, and up to twice the sum of the security deposit in Court. Thus, if your security deposit was $1,000, you would be entitled to obtain $2,000 from the Court for the 540-A violations. It is also likely that a landlord may have violated other provisions of RSA 540-A if he violated the security deposit rules, which may entitle a tenant to additional damages and fees and costs.