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posted: 4/10/2011 12:01 AM

Law talk: Don't let former landlord pocket your deposit

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Q. I moved out of my apartment about two months ago. I have asked my landlord for my $1,500 security deposit back but he refuses to answer my e-mails. I don't know where he lives. E-mail is the only way we have ever communicated. How can I get my security deposit back?

A. It would appear your landlord is hoping that by ignoring you, you will give up and he will receive a little bonus. But we're not going to let that happen, are we.

You need to try to locate an address for your prior landlord. The Internet is the obvious place to start. If that is not successful, you may need to retain a private investigator to locate him.

Once located, I would let him know you know where he lives and that absent receiving your deposit back, you will file a lawsuit against him. If the property is in Chicago, there are stiff penalties for your landlord's actions. Other communities also have local rules to discourage this behavior.

If he fails to respond to your correspondence, file a pro se (do-it-yourself) lawsuit in either the county where the property is located or the county that the landlord resides. These are simple lawsuits to prepare, file and serve. You can usually receive some assistance at the courthouse regarding procedure.

Presuming the landlord has not served notice upon you of damage to the apartment, this should be a pretty easy victory. Ask the judge for any other out of pocket costs you have incurred, such as investigator fees and court costs.

Q. My wife and are attempting to refinance our mortgage. We met with the loan officer, filled out the application and paid a fee. The loan officer told us it looked good.

Yesterday, he called us to tell us we cannot refinance because we do not own the house. He said the house is in title to another husband and wife. The names he gave us are the people we bought the house from four years ago.

What do we do now? How do we get the property put in our name?

A. It appears that the title company that handled your transaction failed to record your deed. The recording of the deed is what "officially" puts you in title to a property.

Locate the closing documents from your purchase. You should have a copy of the deed and you should also have an Owners Title Policy or, at least, a commitment for title insurance. Contact the title company on the commitment or owners policy, inform them of your problem and demand the problem be rectified immediately. Hopefully the title company is still around. More than a few title companies have disappeared over the past few years.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine, IL 60067, by e-mail to tdr100@hotmail.com or call (847) 359-8983.

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