Is an Arkansas tenant entitled to receive double the security deposit back if it was illegally withheld?
After living here for 8 months (it was a year lease), the place was sold in August, 2009. I signed a new lease with the new landlord shortly after the sale and only recently found out that he never received my security deposit from the seller, and neither did I! I just saw today on some "legal" show that in many states, the tenant is entitled to double their security deposit back if the landlord doesn't return it within the legal time, which, I believe in AR, is 30 days. Well, it's been over 2 years and the previous owner/slum lord still has my deposit! I intend to take him to small claiims court to get it back but would like double if I can get it - he owes it to me after what he put me through! Thanks for your help!
Generally, when there is a sale of property when there is a tenant in the building, the security deposit held by the seller is transferred to the buyer at closing. So, I guess my first question would be to wonder if it is even true that your present landlord does not have this money.
It is true that in some states, there is a kind of punitive damages clause in the landlord-tenant statute, a doubling as a penalty for unjustly holding onto the deposit. However, I know that in Pennsylvania, there are certain conditions the tenant must fill. And also, in Pennsylvania, at least, a lease can contain terms that allow the landlord to withhold a security deposit for a number of reasons other than damage to the premises.
In the Arkansas statute, there is a similar provision. However, without being able to look at your lease and not being familiar with Arkansas case law, it is not possible to give you a definitive answer. Also, bear in mind that since it has been more than two years, the statute of limitations for such a suit may very well have run. There are consumer protection agencies that can advise you, and there is likely to be some sort of free or inexpensive legal services in Arkansas. Call your local bar association to find out about such services.