My management company mismanaged my deposit refund

It’s been over two months since Rebecca Horowitz moved out of her apartment – but she’s still waiting for the management company to return her security deposit. Can our advocates turn up the heat and persuade the management company to come up with a check for Horowitz?

Question: I paid a security deposit of $1,106 when I moved into my old apartment at The Point, a student-living complex in Ewing, N.J., which is managed by Mercer Management.

When my roommates and I moved out, an employee of Mercer contacted me to ask me for my current mailing address so that it could mail me a check for my security deposit. Although I provided my new address, I never received the check. I emailed Mercer several times since then, and Mercer’s agent responded each time that my security deposit was on its way.

After two months and six calls, I’m still waiting for Mercer to send me the check. Can you help me get Mercer to follow through on its promise to refund my security deposit? — Rebecca Horowitz, Ewing, N.J.

Answer: I’m sorry it’s taken you so long to receive your security deposit – especially since under New Jersey landlord-tenant law, Mercer was required to return it to you within 30 days of your moving out. You should have received it over a month ago at the latest.

Your story illustrates the importance of maintaining a paper trail when making a request for help to a company. Paper trails establish transactions and agreements between consumers and companies, documenting each party’s obligations to one another.

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If you only had telephone contacts with Mercer, your case would have been hard for us to resolve. Our advocates have seen numerous instances of consumers receiving verbal promises from customer service agents that are ultimately uncollectible because they have no paper trails to back them up.

Luckily, you had a compelling paper trail proving that you had repeatedly requested your security deposit after moving out and that Mercer had promised it to you. This paper trail was crucial to our being able to assist you. Our advocates contacted the property manager at The Point, who spoke to Mercer’s corporate office several times on your behalf.

Apparently, there was some question about whether you and your roommates were going to renew your lease or take another apartment in the complex. You were transferred into another unit, which caused some confusion because when you decided to leave altogether, the accounting department didn’t receive this information.

The accounting department cut a check for your security deposit refund, but it assumed that you were still living at The Point and redeposited the check in its escrow account by mistake. According to the property manager, “It was just a big error on the system’s part.”

After a number of telephone conversations and emails, Mercer’s corporate office has confirmed that it has mailed you the security deposit refund. You have since notified us that you have received the check from Mercer.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org. Read more of Jennifer's articles here.

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