Guide to: Landlord/Tenant Security Deposit Disputes and Small Claims Court
The primary reason tenants bring suits against landlords is for security deposit disputes. Many of us are angry when we feel we did not receive everything that we are entitled to. However not all security deposit deductions or withholdings are unjustified. For a basic overview of your rights relating to security deposits, see below:
When Should I Bring Suit in Small Claims Court over a Security Deposit Dispute?
Nobody wants to go to court. It can be very time consuming and aggravating. However if
- A landlord has withheld a security deposit for 30 days after you have vacated the premises (or longer if stipulated in the lease, not to exceed 60 days); OR
- You feel the deductions are unjustified
Then it may be time to go to court.
Landlords can deduct money from security deposits for a number of things (for a fuller understanding, refer to the Consumer Tips webpage link above). Landlords CANNOT deduct for normal wear and tear to the property. For a list of what normally constitutes “wear and tear” versus “damage or excessive filth” see below
How Much Can I Collect from My Landlord in Small Claims Court?
Tenants can sue landlords in small claims court for the return of their deposit, up to a dollar amount of $7,500. The amount recovered is usually the amount the judge or magistrate deems the landlord has wrongfully held plus, perhaps, a filing fee. If you believe your claim is for over $7,500, then small claims court is not the place for you, or, you can waive the excess balance.
What are the Benefits of Suing in Small Claims Court?
- Filing fees for all Colorado small claims courts are as follows
- Claim up to $500 = Filing Fee of $31
- Claim between $500.01 and $7,500 = Filing Fee of $55
- There could be additional fees for service of process, but these are usually reimbursed if you win your case.
- NO ATTORNEYS FEES
- Attorneys aren’t allowed in most small courts claims.
- An attorney will be allowed to bring or defend a claim if that attorney is an employee, officer, or partner in a corporation involved in the suit OR an authorized active member of a union involved in the suit.
- If the other party is represented by an attorney, you may have one as well
- Disputes are heard before a judge or magistrate within a month or two
What About Mediation
Mediation is where a neutral third party negotiates a mutually acceptable agreement between yourself and your landlord. It is a good method of resolving your dispute without the headache of going to trial. Some magistrates and judges will require mediation before a trial can be heard. Mediation services are available at:
- The Colorado Office of Dispute Resolution
- Contact: (303) 837-3672
- The City of Boulder Community Mediation Services
- The City of Longmont Mediation Services, or
- Private mediators. These can be found in the yellow pages or online.
I hope this helps!
For an in-depth analysis on how to file a claim in small claims court, see my corollary blog post:
- Guide to: How to Bring a Suit in Small Claims court