Dear Consumer Ed: 

If my landlord is late paying me my due full security deposit, can I charge him interest?

Consumer Ed says: 

If a landlord is wrongfully withholding your security deposit, you may file a lawsuit to recover it.  In the lawsuit, you can attempt to recover your security deposit, interest on the amount while it was wrongfully withheld, attorney fees, and the cost of filing the legal action.

In addition to the security deposit, interest, and fees, you may be able to recover three times the amount of the deposit if your landlord owns more than ten units or uses a third party to manage the units.  Before filing suit, however, you should consult an attorney to discuss your options.

Under Georgia law, all landlords must return a security deposit within 30 days after the termination of the lease or the surrender and acceptance of the premises, whichever occurs last.  If the security deposit is held because of damage to the unit, the landlord must send the tenant notice within 30 days identifying the damage, the estimated dollar amount of the damage, and a refund, if any, of the difference between the security deposit and the amount withheld for damages.  Finally, you should know that the security deposit, and any statement accompanying it, must be mailed to the last known address of the tenant (even if that address is the vacated rental property); if it is returned as undeliverable and the landlord is unable to locate the tenant after a reasonable effort, the security deposit becomes the property of the landlord 90 days after it was mailed.

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