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Security Deposits & Rent Increases

This article was produced by LARCC in cooperation with CLS, GHLA, NHLAA, and SLS.

Security Deposits & Rent Increases

Security Deposits

Before you move into an apartment, the landord may ask you to pay the first month’s rent and a security deposit equal to up to 2 months of your rent. The landlord must return all of your deposit (plus interest) when you move out unless your apartment has been damaged. Read below to learn:

  • Things you can do that will help you get your security deposit back when you move out, and
  • What to do if your landlord does not give you back your security deposit.

Before you
move in…

  • Pay your security deposit with a check or a money order, not cash. Get a receipt, and keep it in a safe place.
  • Make notes about any problems with the apartment when you move. Or take photos. This can help you prove what damage was already there when you moved in.

While you live there…

  • The landlord must keep your security deposit in a special account (called escrow) and return it to you when you move out.
  • Every year the landlord must also pay you interest on your security deposit. If you have lived there for a long time and have never received interest payments, the landlord may owe you for overdue interest.

When you
move out…

 

  • Make notes or take photos of any problems with the apartment.
    Important! The landlord must not charge you for normal wear and tear to the apartment.
  • Write a letter to the landlord asking him to return your security deposit. Your letter must list a mailing address where you can receive the check.
  • Make 3 copies of your letter. Mail 2 copies to the landlord, separately. Mail one copy using regular mail. Mail the other using certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep one copy for your records.
  • Even if there is a new landlord, you still have the right to get your deposit back.

What should my letter to the landlord say?

Your letter should look like this:

 


TO: [Landlord’s name]

 

[Landlord’s Address]

[Date]

I was a tenant at: [address of the place you rented]

My move-out date: [date of move]

The law says you must return my security deposit [list amount], plus interest within 30 days of receiving this letter. Please mail it to me at this address: [List any address where you can receive mail]

[Your signature, date, and printed name]


 

How long does the landlord have to return my security deposit?

In most cases, the landlord has up to 30 days after receiving your letter with your new address to:

  • Return your deposit, or
  • Return your deposit minus the cost of repairs to damages in your apartment plus interest. In this case, he must also send you an itemized list of estimated or actual costs for those repairs.

If the landlord does not return your deposit or give you the list of repairs within 30 days, the law says he must pay you double. That means the whole security deposit + interest x 2.

How do I know if the interest paid is correct?

You can check with the Department of Banking. (The rates change every year):

Call: 860-240-8154 or 800-831-7225, ext. 8154 (toll-free), or

Click here to visit the Department’s website.

Note: The landlord does not have to pay you interest for any month you were 10 or more days late with the rent and not charged a late fee.

What if the landlord does not return my deposit or only returns part of it?

You can sue the landlord in Small Claims Court if…

  • The landlord returned part of your deposit and a list of repairs and costs, but you do not agree with the amounts deducted.

You will have to fill out and file court forms and go to court to explain your case.  You do not need a lawyer to do this. For more information, read: Small Claims Court.

You can file a complaint with the Banking Department if…

  1. You used certified mail, return receipt requested to give the landlord your new mailing address, and
  2. The landlord does not return your deposit or only returns part of your deposit without giving you the itemized list of repairs.  Click here to get a complaint form. Send your complaint and copies of the documents they ask you for to:

Security Deposit Investigator
Connecticut Department of Banking
260 Constitution Plaza
Hartford, CT 06103-1800
Email: dob.sd@ct.gov
Tel: 860-240-8154, or 800-831-7225, ext. 8154
Fax: 860-278-7014 

Special Rules for Seniors

  • Seniors (over 61) cannot be charged more than 1 month's rent for the security deposit.
  • After 1 year of living in public senior housing, the entire security deposit, plus interest must be returned to the senior.

Some Rent Increases Are Unfair or Illegal

When can the landlord raise my rent?

If you pay rent month-to-month and do not have a written lease, your landlord can raise the rent at any time.

Exception: Your landlord is not allowed to raise your rent (or decrease services, like utilities) if in the last 6 months you:

  • complained to the health department, housing code office, or the Fair Rent Commission,
  • filed court papers because your landlord isn’t making needed repairs in your apartment,
  • asked your landlord to make repairs in your apartment, or
  • joined a tenant’s union.

If you have a written lease that has not expired, your landlord is not allowed to raise the rent unless it is in the lease.

If I do not have a written lease, can I do anything about a rent increase?

Yes. Here are some suggestions:

  • Ask the landlord not to raise the rent (or raise it less). If he agrees, put it in writing. This will be your new written lease. If he does not agree, send him a letter saying you do not agree to the new amount. Continue paying the old rent or an increase you think is reasonable. Always pay by check or money order on time. Write “Rent in full for the month of ___” on your check or money order.
  • Contact to the Fair Rent Commission. If you file a complaint, the Commission will look at your situation and decide if your rent or rent increase is too high or unfair. See below how to file a complaint with the Commssion.

What if I am a senior or have a disability?

If you are a senior or have a physical disability, and you live in a mobile home or a building with 5 or more units, your landlord must not raise the rent unless it is “fair and equitable.”

If the rent increase does not seem “fair and equitable” to you, you can:

  • File a complaint with your local Fair Rent Commission.
  • Sue your landlord to stop the rent increase (If your town does not have a Fair Rent Commission)
  • Talk to a lawyer

Who can file a complaint with the Fair Rent Commission?

You can file a complaint if:

  • The rent increase seems unfair.
  • Your landlord wants you to pay for utilities, but they used to be included in your rent.
  • Your rent seems unfair because your apartment is unsafe, has unhealthy conditions, or violates the housing code.  

You must have lived there for at least 3 months. You do not need a lawyer or a written lease.

How to File a Complaint with the Fair Rent Commission

  1. Call or go to the Fair Rent Commission office in your town. Not all towns have a Commission. CallInfoline: 2-1-1 or click here to see a list of towns that have Commissions.
  2. Ask for a complaint form and fill it out.
  3. Make two copies of your complaint.
  4. File your complaint at the Commission.
  5. Take a copy of your complaint to the Housing Code Office and ask them to inspect your apartment as soon as possible.

What happens after I file a complaint?

The Commission will investigate your complaint and schedule a hearing. But first, they may meet with you and your landlord to see if you can make an agreement on your own.

You do not have to make an agreement with your landlord, but you can if the agreement seems fair to you. If you cannot make an agreement, tell the Commission you want a hearing.

Can my landlord evict me if I file a complaint?

NO. The law says your landlord cannot evict you just because you filed a complaint. But you can be evicted if you do not pay your rent each month.

If your landlord tries to evict you after you filed a complaint and your rent is paid, call Statewide Legal Services 860-344-0380 or 800-453-3320 and the Commission right away.

Do I pay the same rent after I file my complaint?

Every month until the Commission decides your case, you must pay your landlord:

  • the old rent, or
  • a higher rent that seems fair to you.

Warning! Always pay by check or money order. Do not pay cash! Write: “Rent in full for the month of ____” on your check.

How do I get ready for the hearing?

Before the hearing tell the Commission if:

  • You want copies of any city or town documents, such as code enforcement reports about your property.
  • You want a witness to speak at the hearing, such as a repair person, code inspectors, or a town employee. If you think the witness may not want to go to the hearing, ask the Commission to order (subpoena) the witness to go and to bring any documents you need to help your case.

Follow these steps:

  • Make notes to help you remember what you want to say. And practice saying it. If you get nervous, you can read from your notes.
  • You have the right to have a lawyer speak for you at the hearing if you want.
  • Describe any unsafe, unhealthy or unlawful conditions in your apartment, such as pests, leaks, no water, etc.
  • Bring photos that show these problems. 
  • Make 2 copies of these papers:
  • The Housing Code Office’s report
  • The Health Department report, if there is one
  • Proof of your income, such as paycheck stubs or welfare forms, etc.
  • Copies of your utility bills (if you pay utilities and they are high) 

What happens at the hearing?

Both you and the landlord (and any witnesses) must take an oath to tell the truth.

You and your landlord will each get a chance to speak, show important papers and photos, and call witnesses. You have the right to ask your landlord and his witness questions.

The Commission will record the hearing and decide your case later.

How will the Commission decide?

The Commission considers many things, especially:

  • The rent for similar units in your area
  • Your income and ability to pay the higher rent
  • If your unit is in good condition or needs repairs
  • The landlord’s costs and how the rent increase will be used
  • The amount of the increase and any other recent rent increases
  • Damage to the apartment (more than normal wear and tear).
  • If the unit is furnished or includes utilities.

What happens after the hearing?

The Commission will send you a letter with their decision.

The Commission can decide:

  • The rent increase is fair and order you to pay it. If you do not agree, you can appeal in court. If you want to appeal, contact Statewide Legal Services. 
  • The rent increase is unfair, lower your rent and order the landlord to accept that amount.
  • The landlord must raise your rent gradually so you won’t have to pay the increased amount right away.
  • The rent cannot increase until repairs are made. If this happens, you may have to pay your rent to the Commission for a while. They will not give the rent money to your landlord until he makes the repairs. The Commission may ask another agency to make sure your landlord makes the repairs.

Does the landlord have to obey the Commission?

Yes. If the landlord does not obey the Commission (or gives you a hard time because of your complaint), the Commission can fine him and order him not to give you a hard time.

Report any problems to the Commission.

Needed Repairs

What if my apartment needs repairs?

If your apartment needs repairs, such as broken windows, plumbing or electrical problems, you should:

  • Write a letter to your landlord listing all needed repairs.
  • Keep a copy of your letter for your records.

If your landlord does not make needed repairs:

  • Get someone to inspect your apartment. Call or visit 211 to find the phone number of your town’s Code Enforcement Office.  Call the Code Enforcement Office to file a complaint.  When the inspector comes to your apartment, show the inspector everything that needs to be fixed. Write down the inspector's name.
  • If your landlord does not fix the problems within 21 days of your complaint, you can sue your landlord in court. The court can order your landlord to:
  • Make the repairs,
  • Give you back the rent you paid while your landlord did not fix the problems, and
  • Pay you for any damages.

To sue your landlord, you must fill out and file court forms. To learn more about this, see: If Your Rental Unit Needs Repairs

Warning! Filing a complaint with the Housing Code Office or the court may give you extra time and protections, but you still must pay your rent on time or you can be evicted or have your case against the landlord dismissed by the court.

This booklet was produced by the Legal Assistance Resource Center of Connecticut in cooperation with Connecticut Legal Services, Greater Hartford Legal Aid, New Haven Legal Assistance Association, and Statewide Legal Services.

The information in this booklet is based on laws in Connecticut as of 2/2013. We hope that the information is helpful. It is not intended as legal advice. For advice on your situation, call Statewide Legal Services or contact a lawyer.  

For more information, contact:

Statewide Legal Services: 860-344-0380 (Central CT & Middletown) or 1-800-453-3320 (all other regions).

For people over 60, click here to get help from legal aid.

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