When you rent an apartment, it's considered standard practice to put down a security deposit. Tenants expect that money, or part of it, to be returned when they leave. However, a Naples man tells his story of how it got complicated for his sister who moved to Southwest Florida from out of state.
Brian Johnson explains, "She was waiting to get word on a different apartment. And, it became available the very next day but she already put a deposit down on the complex down the street." Less than 24 hours later, the sister said she tried to get her money back from the original apartment. They told her they can't.
Brian showed 4 In Your Corner the one document they received from the original apartment. He said, "They waived the application fee and the lease administration fee because she was a teacher and it says no charge on there. And, then they have the "after approved." The first thing is the security deposit $300 and that's what she paid."
Brian wanted to know their rights so we spoke to local attorney, Steven Martin. He says, "With a large organization like this, this could be a standard business practice, where they take a $300 deposit and term it a "security deposit" but they're calling it a hold deposit. And if that's the case, and they're not refunding this money, they may be exposed to all of these people, then they could be in some trouble."
Brian has one request. "I think the right thing is just to refund her money so that she could move on.
So we can both move on." After talking to a couple of employees at the apartment, Fox 4 anchor Jane Monreal and Brian were only referred to call the apartment's corporate headquarters. After several attempts there, neither Jane nor Brian received any response or refund.
Martin shared his philosophy about the legal system. He said, "It always gets down to simply, when he gets down to it, who is the good guy, who's the bad guy? And in this situation, if they're not talking to you, if they're not helping you out, even if they're legally right, I don't know if it's the best thing for that business to keep this $300 deposit or whatever it is. I think the landlord would be wiser to give her, her money back and help somebody else get a place to live."
Martin suggested their only recourse is to find others who may have been in a similar situation with the same apartment company and find a consumer law attorney to file a class action lawsuit. It's a long and challenging process, which is why most people won't pursue it further and just take the $300 loss.
Brian shares this advice with others who may be in a similar situation. Know exactly what you're giving the money for and get everything down on paper.