When Matthew Adair moved out of his Columbus apartment in July of 2017, he received only $250 out of the $1,200 security deposit he had originally paid. Matthew was confident that this wasn’t right as he had not caused any damage to his apartment while living there. So he began researching his rights as a tenant to find out how to get the rest of his security deposit back.

Matthew went the Legal Aid Society of Columbus website where he found this helpful brochure on how to get a security deposit back. While this guide confirmed that he was entitled to his full security deposit, and laid out the mechanics for getting it back, Matthew felt like he needed help navigating the process of interfacing with his landlord, so he called COHHIO’s free Housing Information Line (888-485-7999).

Through the info line Matthew spoke to COHHIO’s Affordable and Fair Housing Coordinator Joe Maskovyak. Joe reassured Matthew that his experience was not uncommon. Joe advised Matthew to send a letter to his landlord asking for the remainder of his security deposit, citing the section of the Ohio Revised Code that states that a landlord cannot keep any part of a security deposit except to cover damages from unpaid rent, utilities, etc. or for damage beyond normal wear and tear.

The landlord initially tried to deny Matthew his legal claim to the security deposit by referencing the lease that he signed. He then, under more pressure, tried to return only a small portion of the security deposit. Essentially, the landlord was trying to improperly force the tenant to cover the refurbishment and turnover costs associated with every routine change of tenants, which is a cost of business born by the landlord.

Through this entire process, after each letter that he received from the landlord, Matthew would talk to Joe, who assured him that no language in his lease can trump the law and he was legally entitled to his security deposit regardless of what the lease said. He also helped Matthew to formulate his argument to persuade his landlord to return the full security deposit. Eventually with Joe’s help, Matthew did receive his full security deposit and never had to resort to filing legal action.

Matthew was so thankful for the assistance he received from the Housing Information Line, that he made a contribution to COHHIO and donated his graphic design services by helping to produce some of the printed materials for Housing Ohio 2018 conference.