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Landlord Tenant Resource Center
SECURITY DEPOSIT SELF-HELP PACKET
This Self-Help Packet includes:
Frequently Asked Questions About Security Deposits for Residential Rentals
Sample Demand Letter
Sample Small Claims Statement of Claim
Small Claims Statement of Claim
Application to Proceed without Prepayment of Costs or Fees
Instructions:
Read the Frequently Asked Questions.
All of the forms mentioned in the Frequently Asked Questions are included in this
packet.
If you need additional information about court procedures, please visit the Court’s
website at www.dccourts.gov.
If you need additional information on legal topics, please visit www.lawhelp.org/DC.
If you need to speak to a lawyer about your security deposit issue, you may contact:
Consumer Law/Small Claims Resource Center
Hours: Wednesday and Thursday, 9:15 a.m. – 12 noon
510 4
th
Street, NW, Room 208
This is a walk-in service. No appointment is needed.
D.C. Bar Pro Bono Program Advice & Referral Clinic
2
nd
Saturday of each month ONLY, 10 a.m. – 12 noon
1525 7
th
Street, NW and 1640 Good Hope Road, SE
This is a walk-in service. No appointment is needed.
D.C. Law Students in Court Program
4340 Connecticut Avenue, Room 2018
(202) 638-4798
Call for current intake hours.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Security Deposits for
Residential Rentals
IMPORTANT NOTE: Some of the information in this Frequently Asked Questions may not apply to rental
units that are owned or subsidized by the D.C. or federal government.
Q. What amount may my landlord charge for a security deposit?
A. The landlord may not charge more than the amount of one month's rent, and it may be charged only once.
Q. Is my landlord required to hold the money in a special account?
A. Your landlord must hold the deposit in an interest bearing account in a financial institution in the District of
Columbia. The account must be for the sole purpose of holding security deposits. Your landlord can use the same
account for more than one building. If you rent the unit for at least twelve months, the landlord is required to pay
you the interest accruing on the security deposit, subject to any lawful deductions. The interest rate is adjusted
every six months (on January 1st and July 1st).
Q. After I move out of my unit, how much time does my landlord have to return the deposit?
A. Your landlord has 45 days to either return the deposit with interest, or notify you in writing, that he or she plans
to withhold the deposit and apply it toward the cost of expenses you are responsible for, such as repairing damage
you caused to the property. The writing must be delivered to you in person or by certified mail to your last known
address. Note: Your landlord must only pay you the interest on your security deposit if you lived in the unit for one
year or more.
Q. What happens if the landlord keeps some or all of the security deposit?
A. Within the 30 days after the landlord notifies you that he/she will withhold your security deposit, your landlord
must return the rest of the deposit, if any, to you. The landlord must provide you with a detailed statement of the
repairs and other uses to which the deposit was applied. The landlord must also list the cost of each item.
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Q. What can my landlord use my deposit for?
A. In general, a landlord can use a security deposit to make sure you have met your obligations as a tenant. The
landlord is required to state in writing what your deposit can be used for, either in a written lease or in a written
receipt for the security deposit. A landlord can, for example, state that your deposit can be used to pay for damage
to the rental unit or if you move out while owing the landlord money for rent.
Q. Can my landlord charge me for repairs if I did not cause the damage?
A. Your landlord is responsible for paying for repairs to your rental unit, as long as the problems weren’t caused by
you or your guests. Your landlord is responsible for repairs that are the result of ordinary wear and tear. This
includes items that break or deteriorate due to age or poor condition. If you or your guests damage the unit,
accidentally or by neglect, then your landlord can charge you for the repairs.
Q. Can my landlord be penalized for failing to send me proper notice about why the landlord is
keeping my security deposit?
A. If your landlord did not give you the proper notices and you sue him or her to get your deposit back, the court
will presume that you are entitled to your whole deposit and any interest. The landlord will have to prove that you
are not entitled to full return of the deposit and interest. This gives you an advantage in your case because in most
lawsuits, the person who files the case must prove that he or she should win.
Q. How can I get my security deposit back if my landlord improperly withholds it?
A. There are several steps you can take. First, you may want to talk to your landlord or send a demand letter,
asking the landlord to follow the law. Sometimes, this is enough to convince the landlord to return your deposit, and
you can avoid the time and expense of a lawsuit.
You may want to get an advocate involved. The Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA) may be able to help you
contact your landlord to help you get your deposit back. You can contact OTA at (202) 719-6560.
You may file a lawsuit, usually in Small Claims Court, to try and force the landlord to return the proper amount. The
form used to start a Small Claims case is called a Statement of Claim. If you decide to sue your landlord, the Small
Claims filing fee will be between $5 and $45, depending on the amount you are seeking. If these fees will be a
hardship to you, you can ask the court to waive the fees by filing an Application to Proceed Without Prepayment of
Costs, Fees, or Security. The maximum amount of money you can seek in a Small Claims case is $10,000.
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Q. Can I sue for additional money if my landlord does not return my security deposit?
A. You may be entitled to what is called “treble damages”, or triple the actual money owed, if the court finds that
the landlord acted in bad faith. The term “bad faith” means any unfounded or dishonest reason for not returning the
deposit. Forgetting to return the deposit, bad judgment, or an honest belief that the landlord acted correctly is not
bad faith.
Q. What can my landlord do if the damage to my rental unit or other charges were more than the
amount of my security deposit?
A. The landlord can sue you, usually in small claims court, to try to get a judgment for any damage or other
charges that are greater than the amount of your security deposit. If this happens, you can counterclaim against the
landlord if you believe that you are entitled to get some or all of your deposit back. If you sue the landlord for return
of your deposit, before he or she sues you, your landlord may be able to counterclaim for damage to the rental unit
or other money the landlord claims you owe, such as unpaid rent.
Q. Can my landlord keep my deposit if I move out before my lease is over, if I move out without
giving 30-days notice, or if I owe rent for some other reason?
A. Your lease or security deposit receipt should state the reasons the landlord can keep your deposit. A tenant
who moves out before a written lease expires may owe the landlord rent through the end of the lease term.
However, the landlord has a duty to mitigate damages, which means the duty to make a good faith effort to try to
re-lease the unit. Tenants who are renting on a month-to-month basis or after a lease has expired are required to
give a 30-day notice before they move out. The 30 days expires the first day of the first month at least 30 days after
the date on your notice of intent to vacate. A tenant who does not do this may owe the landlord an additional
month’s rent. Your landlord can agree to let you move out early without owing additional rent or, if the landlord is
able to re-rent the unit, you may not owe the entire amount.
A tenant usually cannot decide to apply a security deposit to the last month’s rent or other charges without the
landlord’s permission. However, the landlord may have the right to keep your deposit under the terms of your lease
or the security deposit receipt if you move out while owing money for rent or other charges.
Even if the landlord does not have the right to keep your deposit under the terms of your lease or your security
deposit receipt, if you sue the landlord to get your deposit back, the landlord may counterclaim for the rent or other
charges you owe.
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SAMPLE DEMAND LETTER
[TENANT’S NAME]
[ADDRESS]
[CITY, STATE, ZIP]
[DATE]
[LANDLORD’S NAME]
[ADDRESS]
[CITY, STATE, ZIP]
Dear [LANDLORD]:
As you know, I moved out of [COMPLETE ADDRESS OF TENANT’S FORMER
RESIDENCE] on [DATE] and gave you the keys at the time. I also gave you my new address.
When I moved into the rental unit, I paid you a security deposit in the amount of [$XXX.XX]. I
am writing to request that you return my security deposit immediately.
[ONLY INCLUDE THE PARAGRAPHS BELOW THAT APPLY]
It has now been more than 45 days since I moved out, and you have not given me any written
notice about whether you will refund my security deposit to me. You are required by D.C.
Municipal Regulations, Title 14, Section 309.1 to return my deposit or to notify me that you plan
to withhold some or all of the deposit within 45 days of the end of my tenancy.
It has now been more than 30 days since you notified me that you would be withholding some of
my security deposit. You are required by the D.C. Municipal Regulations, Title 14, Section
309.2 to return the balance of my deposit along with an itemized statement of each repair or
other use authorized by my lease.
Because I lived in the rental unit for at least twelve months, you are required to pay interest on
my security deposit, unless you can show that you used the interest for a repair or other use
authorized by my lease.
In your letter dated [DATE], you stated that you are withholding [part of] my deposit for various
repairs or other charges including [LIST]. I dispute these charges because [EXPLAIN].
I hope that we can resolve this dispute without going to court. However, if you do not return
[$XXX.XX] to me by [DATE], I will have no choice but to exercise my legal option to sue you
in D.C. Superior Court.
Please contact me by phone at (XXX) XXX-XXXX if you wish to discuss this. You can send the
deposit to the address listed above.
Sincerely,
SAMPLE STATEMENTS
CONTRACT
Plaintiff sues defendant for money due on a contract and states as follows:
$amount of claim plus interest and court costs. The Parties entered into a contract
on date of incident a copy of which is attached hereto. Defendant has failed to
perform as follows: explain how the defendant failed to perform the contract.
AUTOMOBILE COLLISION – ONE DEFENDANT
For damages to Plaintiff’s automobile when in a collision with the automobile of
the Defendant at address of incident on date of incident. $ amount of claim plus
interest and court costs.
AUTOMOBILE COLLISION – TWO DEFENDANTS
For damages to Plaintiff’s automobile when in a collision with the automobile
owned by Defendant name of owner of vehicle at and driven by Defendant name of
driver of vehicle at address of incident on date of incident $amount of claim plus
interest and court costs.
AUTOMOBILE – PARKED
For damages to Plaintiff’s automobile while parked at address of incident when
struck by the automobile of Defendant on date of incident $amount of claim plus
interest and court costs.
AUTOMOBILE – CUSTODY
For damages to Plaintiff’s automobile while in custody of the Defendant at address
of incident on date of incident. $amount of claim plus interest and court costs.
DEPOSIT – MERCHANDISE
For return of a deposit in the amount of $ amount of claim paid to Defendant on
date of incident for merchandise, to which deposit Plaintiff is entitled because:
explain why Plaintiff is entitled to the deposit plus interest and court costs.
DEPOSIT – APARTMENT
For return of a deposit paid to the Defendant on date of incident for Apartment #
apartment number at street address of apartment $ amount of claim plus interest
and court costs.
DEPOSIT – SECURITY
For return of a security deposit paid to the Defendant on date of incident for
Apartment # apartment number at street address of apartment withheld by the
defendant since date deposit was due from defendant $ amount of claim plus
interest and court costs.
CV-471/Sample Mar 09
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Civil Division Small Claims and Conciliation Branch
510 4
th
Street, N.W., Court Building B, Room 120, Washington, D.C. 20001
Telephone Number: (202) 879-1120 Website: www.dccourts.gov
Case No.: ______________________________
______________________________________ ______________________________________
Plaintiff(s) Defendant(s)
______________________________________ vs. ______________________________________
______________________________________ ______________________________________
Address Zip Code
Phone No. ____________________
STATEMENT OF CLAIM
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, ss: ______________________________________________________ being first duly sworn on oath says
the foregoing is a just and true statement of the amount owing by the defendant to plaintiff, exclusive of all set-offs and just grounds
of defense.
____________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________
Plaintiff /Agent (Sign and Print Name) Address City/State/Zip Code
Title:____________________________________________ ___________________________________________________
Email Phone No.
Subscribed and sworn to before me this __________ day of _______________________________________________, 20 ________
(month)
____________________________________________
(Notary Public or Deputy Clerk)
________________________________________________________________________________________________
Attorney for Plaintiff (Sign and Print Name) Bar No.
_________________________________________________________
Address City/State/Zip Code
Place Notary Seal Here
_________________________________________________________
Email Phone No.
NOTICE
(All parties must notify the Court of any address changes.)
To:
(1) ____________________________________________ (2) _____________________________________________________
Defendant Defendant
_______________________________________________ _____________________________________________________
Address City/State/Zip Code Address City/State/Zip Code
Home Business Home Business
You are hereby notified that ___________________________________________________ has made a
claim and is requesting judgment against you in the sum of _______________________________________
dollars ($___________), as shown by the foregoing statement. The Court will hold a hearing on this
claim on _________________________ in the Small Claims and Conciliation Branch, 510 4
th
Street, N.W.,
Court Building B, Courtroom 119.
See reverse side for complete instructions. ______________________________________________
Bring this Notice with you at all times. Clerk of the Court or Deputy Clerk
CV-471 / June 2018 / Small Claims Form 11 Superior Court of the District of Columbia
INSTRUCTIONS TO DEFENDANTS
IMPORTANT: IF YOU FAIL TO APPEAR AT THE TIME STATED OR AT ANY OTHER TIME THE COURT NOTIFIES
YOU TO DO SO, A JUDGMENT BY DEFAULT MAY BE ENTERED AGAINST YOU FOR THE MONEY, DAMAGES
OR OTHER RELIEF DEMANDED IN THE STATEMENT OF CLAIM. IF THIS OCCURS, YOUR WAGES OR BANK
ACCOUNT MAY BE ATTACHED OR WITHHELD OR ANY PERSONAL PROPERTY OWNED BY YOU MAY BE
TAKEN AND SOLD TO PAY THE JUDGMENT. DO NOT FAIL TO APPEAR AT THE REQUIRED TIME.
Before any case goes to trial in the Small Claims and Conciliation Branch, a trained mediator will meet with all parties
to see if a settlement can be worked out. If all parties are present when your case is called, you and the plaintiff will be able to
see a mediator and may settle your dispute without having to go to trial.
You may come with or without a lawyer. The Statement of Claim indicates whether the plaintiff has a lawyer. If the
plaintiff does have a lawyer and you wish to dispute the claim, it would be in your best interest to have your own lawyer.
If you wish to have legal advice and feel that you cannot afford to pay a fee to a lawyer, you may contact the
Neighborhood Legal Services at (202) 269-5100 or The DC Law Students in Court Program at (202) 638-4798 or Legal
Counsel for the Elderly at (202) 434-2170 or the Legal Aid Society at (202) 628-1161 or if you need further help come to
Building B, 510 4
th
Street, N.W., Room 120, for more information concerning places where you may ask for such help. You
may also consult the D.C. Bar Website at: www.lawhelp.org/dc. Act promptly.
If it is impossible for you to appear on the date of trial, attempt to contact the plaintiff to arrange a new date. If parties
agree on a date, notify the clerk of the Small Claims Branch of this court. If parties cannot agree, you may contact the clerk who
will inform you regarding procedures. If you do not appear on the new date, a judgment may be entered against you.
Whenever corresponding with the Small Claims clerk’s office by mail, please include your case number and your date
to appear in court.
You are given the following additional instructions in the event that you intend to appear without a lawyer.
If you have witnesses, books, receipts, or other writings bearing on this claim, you should bring them with you at the
time of the hearing.
If you wish to have witnesses summoned, see the clerk at once for assistance.
If you admit the claim but desire additional time to pay, you must come to the hearing in person and state the
circumstances to the Court.
PUEDE OBTENERSE COPIAS DE ESTE FORMULARIO EN ESPAÑOL EN EL TRIBUNAL SUPERIOR DEL
DISTRITO DE COLUMBIA, EDIFICIO B, 510 4
TH
STREET N.W., SALA 120.
YOU MAY OBTAIN A COPY OF THIS FORM IN SPANISH AT THE SUPERIOR COURT OF D.C. BUILDING B,
510 4TH STREET N.W., ROOM 120.
Form 106A
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
FAMILY COURT and CIVIL DIVISION
_________________________________________
Plaintiff/Petitioner
v. Case no:________________
_______________________________
Defendant/Respondent
APPLICATION TO PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT
OF COSTS, FEES, OR SECURITY (In Forma Pauperis)
Form 106A
I, ___________________________________________ am the (check one)
Plaintiff/Petitioner Defendant/Respondent
I need an interpreter for this case. I speak the following language:
_______________ [Insert Language].
I respectfully ask permission to proceed in this case without pre-paying costs
or fees and without giving security for them because I am not able to do so
without substantial hardship to myself or to my family. In support of this
request, I state the following:
Check and answer only those that apply.
INCOME
1. I receive the following public benefits, and the law presumes that I
am eligible to proceed without prepayment of costs, fees, or security
(see D.C. Code § 15-712):
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
General Assistance for Children (GAC)
Program on Work, Employment and Responsibility (POWER)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Form 106A 2
2. Even though I do not receive the above public benefits, I receive the
following similar benefits and, therefore, request that my Application be
approved:
Interim Disability Assistance (IDA) because my SSI application
has not been approved/certified
Medicaid
DC Healthcare Alliance or the following similar health benefits
(describe)__________________________________________.
If you checked any of the above boxes, you do not need to answer any
more questions and may skip to the section called “Declaration.”
Otherwise, you must answer the rest of the questions on this form. If
additional information is required, you will be notified.
3. My total income over the past 12 months from all sources
(including, but not limited to, my job, other wages or business
income, rental income, pensions, annuities or life insurance
payments, worker’s compensation, unemployment compensation or
insurance, annual interest or dividends, gifts, alimony or spousal
support, inheritance or trust income) is $_________.
4. I am presently unemployed. The last date I worked was on
_______________, _______.
Month Year
DEPENDENTS
5. How many people live in your household and depend on you for
support: ________. Of these people, how many are minor children or
elderly? ________.
Form 106A 3
ASSETS
6. I state the following about my property:
I have $__________ in cash, including money in savings or checking
accounts.
I own the vehicles, personal home, other real estate, stock, bonds, or
other valuable property, besides household furnishings and clothing,
listed below:
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________
_______________________________________________________.
List the Property
EXPENSES
7. This is my best estimate of the monthly expenses for myself and the
people in my household who depend on me for support:
Housing (rent, mortgage, taxes, & insurance): $________
Public Transportation and Gasoline: $__________
Automobile Loan, Insurance, Maintenance: $__________
Health (medical, dental, vision, prescriptions, insurance): $________
Food and other Household Necessities: $__________
Utilities (including gas, electric, water, phone, internet): $_________
Clothing: $__________
Child Support: $____________
Childcare (including diapers, daycare): $___________
Other (explain in detail): $_________________________________
Total Estimated Monthly Expenses: $___________
Form 106A 4
OTHER SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES
8. (Optional) Explain any other special circumstances that you
want to have considered in support of your request, including any
large monthly expenses, debts, wage or bank account
garnishments, and/or judgments.
________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________
_________________________________________________________.
cc
Form 106A 5
DECLARATION
REQUIRED: I solemnly swear or affirm under criminal penalties for the
making of a false statement, which includes 180 days in jail or a $1,000 fine
or both, that I have read this Application and that the factual statements
made in it are true to the best of my personal knowledge, information and
belief.
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__________________________________________
Signature
__________________________________________
Address
__________________________________________
Phone Number
__________________________________________
Date
POINTS AND AUTHORITIES IN SUPPORT OF APPLICATION TO
PROCEED WITHOUT PREPAYMENT OF COSTS, FEES, OR SECURITY
1. D.C. Code § 15-712.
2. D.C. Code § 22-2405.
3. Civil Rule 54-II, Domestic Relations Proceedings Rule 54-II, and Family
Rule R.
4. Adkins v. E.I. Du Pont de Nemours & Co., Inc., 335 U.S. 331 (1948).
5. Harris v. Harris, 137 U.S. App. D.C. 318, 322, 424 F.2d 806 (1970),
cert. denied, 400 U.S. 826 (1970) (“in forma pauperis relief not limited
to those who are public charges or absolutely destitute”).
6. Green v. Green, 562 A.2d 1214 (D.C. 1989) (statute “effectuates the
fundamental principle that every litigant should be provided equal access
to the courts without regard to financial ability”).
7. Herbin v. Hoeffel, 727 A.2d 883, 887 (D.C. 1999) (court officers serve
process in in forma pauperis cases).
8. Cabillo v. Cabillo, 317 A.2d 866, 866 (D.C. 1974) (per curiam)
(reversing denial of in forma pauperis status and mandating granting of
petition where litigant’s income “only slightly above the welfare
standard”).
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When you come to court, you may be asked questions about this Application. If your
responses are not truthful, you could face additional criminal penalties.
Form 106A 6
SUPERIOR COURT OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
FAMILY COURT and CIVIL DIVISION
_________________________________________
Plaintiff/Petitioner
v. Case No.________________
_______________________________
Defendant/Respondent
ORDER
Having considered Plaintiff/Petitioner’s Defendant/Respondent’s
Application to Proceed without Prepayment of Costs, Fees, or Security, it is
hereby ordered that the Application is:
GRANTED in this Family Court case and, pursuant to Domestic
Relations Rule 54-II, witnesses will be subpoenaed without
prepayment of witness fees;
GRANTED in this Civil Division case and, pursuant to Civil Rule 54-II,
the officers of the Court will issue and serve all process; witnesses will
be subpoenaed without prepayment of witness fees;
DENIED
For the following reasons: _________________________________
______________________________________________________
For the reasons stated on the record in open court and in the
presence of the applicant or his or her counsel;
________________ _____________________________
Date Judge
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