Do I need to send my demand letter via “certified” mail?

Sending a letter via “certified” mail, or an equivalent, means that the mail carrier will knock on the door and get a signature as evidence of delivery. But it isn’t always the best answer.

In court, it’s nice to have that signature if someone is saying that “I don’t know, I never got your letter.” So, it’s a thing that lawyers, and sometimes the laws, will often say you need to do. “Send it via certified mail.”

On the other hand, because the carrier has to knock and ask for a signature, certified mail is very easy to avoid. You just don’t answer the door, and the postal service can’t stick around forever, they give up after a few tries. (They need to deliver everyone else’s mail too, after all.) When this happens, the letter is just returned to sender, and a few weeks has probably passed. 

So, if it’s more important that you get the demands in your letter to the other person, than it is you have strong evidence of delivery, “certified mail” is not the best way to go. Sometimes it’s a better move to disguise your letter as boring old mail, to make sure it gets seen. 

In fact, this is why Juris DepositLetter works the way it does. We track the delivery process to the last possible moment, to provide updates, and a record… but our letter looks like boring old mail. Because the letter usually works, and you don’t have to go to court, its more important to get the letter through than it is to have a signature.

Should I cash my security deposit check if I still want to dispute the amount?

The answer is: it depends. 

If you simply cash it the landlord may claim you have settled the whole matter by accepting a partial payment. Landlord might even lie and say you orally agreed to accept the payment as settling the claim. 

If you see the words “full and final payment” or “final settlement” or something like that anywhere on the check, definitely don’t cash it. That’s them trying to trick you into signing an endorsement that the whole thing is settled.

Look for something like this before you cash the check. If you see it, don’t cash it.
It might look like this on the back.

It might not look exactly like those pictures, but words like that are what you’re looking for. If it doesn’t say anything like that anywhere on the check, or in any paperwork that came with it, you should still be able to accept the partial payment while notifying the landlord explicitly in writing that more is still owed. (You can do this with our DepositLetter assistant.)

Simplest would be to cash the check and write above your signature on the back “accepted as partial payment of debt owed”. And be sure to take a picture of both side of the check for your records.

It’ll look something like this.

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. You have to weigh the money in hand vs. the potential difficulty of getting more. Depending on how little it is, I would put it in the bank.

Security deposit withholding is a gigantic problem.

Blog Header - Security Deposit Ideas

More U.S. households are renting now than at any point in the last 50 years. There are 43.3 million American households currently renting their apartment or house.1

Pretty much every landlord renting out an apartment or house requires each tenant to give them a security deposit. So let’s say there are 40 million American households that have given hundreds or thousands of dollars to their landlord as a deposit.

This deposit is supposed to be used by the landlord for very specific purposes. The most common purposes are to cover unpaid rent, to fix excessive damage to the rental caused by the tenant, and to cover violations of the rental agreement.

The problem arises when the tenant moves out. And lots of people are moving out, which means this problem is happening to lots of people. In 2018, more than 21.4 million Americans moved out of their rented apartment or house.2

When a renter moves out, their landlord has to decide how much of the deposit they’ll keep. The basis of this decision is subjective. As an example, some think a one inch hole in the wall is “ordinary” damage, which means the landlord should pay the cost of fixing it. Others might think a hole of that size is “excessive” damage, which means the tenant’s deposit should pay the cost of fixing it. The final piece to call out is that landlords are running businesses, and they want to make money. To summarize the situation:

  • The landlord is running a business and wants to make money.
  • The landlord is holding a big pile of the tenant’s money.
  • The landlord gets to decide how much of this money to keep.
  • The criteria the landlord uses to make this decision are subjective.

  • You can see how the elements of this situation tend to create an unfair outcome for the tenant. Landlords frequently withhold tenants’ security deposits without good reason.

    So here are some key takeaways to understand:

    • If your landlord is giving you a hard time about your security deposit, you are not alone. Millions of Americans deal with this problem every year.
    • Landlords often try to keep an unfair amount of their tenants’ security deposits. When they say you can’t get it back, they might be wrong. You need to get back the money to which you are legally entitled.
    • You have powerful legal rights designed to protect you from being taken advantage of. State lawmakers know about this problem and have passed laws to help tenants. Juris has made enforcing these rights pretty simple. We would love to help.

    A Juris DebtLetter can help end debt collector harassment.​

    Blog Header - Debt Letter Can Help

    Over 44 million Americans are harassed each year by debt collectors about debts they don’t believe they owe. This is a huge problem.

    Lawmakers have tried to end the problem. They passed federal laws that prohibit abuse and give consumers powerful legal rights to end the harassment.

    The problem persists today because these legal rights are difficult to determine and difficult to enforce. Laws are really hard to understand. It’s even harder to determine which ones apply to your situation. And lawyers, the only service providers that can help, are really expensive to hire.

    That’s why Juris used technology to built a new solution; a new way to determine and enforce legal rights.

    It may feel like the only way to enforce legal rights is by taking someone to court. But any lawyer will tell you that when two people are in a dispute, it’s very rare that they actually go to court. Usually, the people in a dispute can work it out themselves. In fact, usually, they must work it out themselves because going to court can be very expensive and time-consuming.

    The consequence of this dynamic is that people can often enforce their legal rights just by showing the other side that they would win if the dispute went to court. They just have to convince the other side that the law is on their side. And that’s what a Juris DebtLetter does.

    Here are the steps:

    • You get contacted by a debt collector who says you owe them money.
    • You go to our DebtLetter page and click the Start My Letter button.
    • You answer some questions online, which will take about 10 minutes. Our technology will automatically determine which questions to ask, determine your strongest legal rights, then draft a letter citing those rights and making demands of the debt collector. 
    • We show you the letter immediately, which you read and approve. 
    • We automatically print, package, and send the letter by tracked mail to the debt collector. Since it’s tracked, we can let you know when it’s delivered. And, if you ever do go to court over the debt, you’ll be better able to prove that the debt collector received the letter.

    Here’s what a DebtLetter achieves: 

    • A DebtLetter shows the debt collector that you know your legal rights, which may cause them to give up on collecting. Many debt collectors are trying to collect from thousands of people at a time. A DebtLetter shows the collector that you won’t be an easy target, so they may decide to just move on to the next one.
    • A DebtLetter creates a record of what has happened, which means that it increases your probability of proving to a court what happened if necessary.
    • A DebtLetter limits how the debt collector can contact you. You have many legal rights to limit this contact. Our technology determines the appropriate ones and triggers them by sending this letter.
    • A DebtLetter sets you up to go on the offensive. After you’ve asserted your legal rights in the DebtLetter, if the debt collector violates them, you may be in a position to sue the debt collector.

    So here are some key takeaways to understand.

    1. The majority of legal disputes are ended without going to court, through private arguing about who has the better case.
    2. The way to end a dispute privately is to determine your legal rights and then convince the other side that your rights are stronger than theirs.
    3. A DebtLetter is a fast, easy, affordable way to determine your legal rights against a debt collector and to communicate to the collector that they should end their efforts to collect. We would love to help.

    Consumers have powerful legal rights against debt collectors.

    Blog Header - Debt Collector Rights

    After years of public outcry about debt collection abuse, in 1977, the U.S. Congress took action to protect Americans. They declared that there was abundant evidence of abusive, deceptive, and unfair practices by many debt collectors. They recognized that existing laws were inadequate to protect consumers. And they passed the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. This Act, abbreviated as the FDCPA, makes illegal all kinds of bad behavior by debt collectors. It also gives consumers all kinds of legal rights against debt collectors. Since Juris helps consumers enforce their legal rights, we’ll focus on what those rights are and what steps consumers can take.

    Consumers have the right to stop a debt collector from collecting.

    Where this right comes from: Section 809(b) of the FDCPA.1

    How to enforce this right:

    1. The consumer sends a physical letter to the debt collector asking them for the name and address of the original creditor that loaned the money or performed the services.
     or
     
    1. The consumer sends a physical letter to the debt collector stating that the debt is incorrect and that they are disputing it. The consumer might do this if they don’t recognize the debt, the amount is wrong, they already paid it back, etc.
     and
     
    1. If the consumer received a written notice from the debt collector, the consumer must send their physical letter within thirty days of receiving that written notice.

    Result of enforcement: After the consumer takes these steps, the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector from trying to collect until they give the consumer information showing that the debt is valid or they get a court to order the consumer to pay the money. If the debt collector continues trying to collect before doing these things, they are likely violating the FDCPA and the consumer might be able to sue them for compensation.

    Consumers have the right to stop a debt collector from contacting anyone other than the consumer’s lawyer about the debt.

    Where this right comes from: Section 804(6) and 805(a)(2) of the FDCPA.2

    How to enforce this right:

    1. The consumer must be represented by an attorney with regard to the debt.
     and
     
    1. The consumer must notify the debt collector that they are represented by an attorney with regard to the debt.
     and
     
    1. The consumer must give the debt collector the attorney’s name and address.
     and
     
    1. The consumer should tell the debt collector that they cannot contact anyone other than the attorney regarding the debt.

    Result of enforcement: After the consumer takes these steps, the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector from contacting any person other than the attorney regarding the debt. If they contact someone other than the attorney after this right has been enforced, they are violating the FDCPA and the consumer might be able to sue them for compensation.

    Consumers have the right to stop a debt collector from contacting the consumer’s place of employment.

    Where this right comes from: Section 805(a)(3) of the FDCPA.3

    How to enforce this right:

    1. The consumer’s place of employment must prohibit the consumer from receiving such communication.
     and
     
    1. The consumer must notify the debt collector that their employer prohibits such communication. Ideally, this notification would be by tracked mail so the consumer can prove it was sent, if necessary.

    Result of enforcement: After the consumer takes these steps, the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector from contacting the consumer’s place of employment. If they contact the consumer’s place of employment after this right has been enforced, they are violating the FDCPA and the consumer might be able to sue them for compensation.

    Consumers have the right to stop a debt collector from contacting them at certain places and times.

    Where this right comes from: Section 805(a)(1) of the FDCPA.4

    How to enforce this right:

    1. The consumer must notify the debt collector that being contacted at certain places and/or times is inconvenient to the consumer. Ideally, this notification would be by tracked mail so the consumer can prove it was sent, if necessary.

    Result of enforcement: After the consumer takes these steps, the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector from contacting the consumer at the places and times that the consumer stated were inconvenient. When a consumer enforces this right, it could cause the debt collector to proceed to suing the consumer in court. This is because enforcing this right means the debt collector might no longer be able to reach the consumer. Their only remaining options might be to give up or to go through the courts.

    Consumers have the right to stop a debt collector from contacting them altogether.

    Where this right comes from: Section 805(c) of the FDCPA.5

    How to enforce this right:

    1. The consumer sends a physical letter to the debt collector stating that the consumer is refusing to pay the debt.

     or 

    1. The consumer sends a physical letter to the debt collector stating that the debt collector must cease further communication with the consumer.

    Result of enforcement: After the consumer takes these steps, the FDCPA prohibits the debt collector from contacting the consumer again. But there are some exceptions. The debt collector can contact them to (1) tell the consumer that the debt collector’s further efforts are being terminated, (2) tell the consumer that the debt collector may invoke specified remedies which are ordinarily invoked by such debt collector, or (3) to tell the consumer that the debt collector intends to invoke a specified remedy. When a consumer enforces this right, it may cause the debt collector to proceed to suing the consumer in court. This is because enforcing this right means the debt collector can no longer try to get the consumer to pay the debt. Their only remaining options are to give up or to go through the courts.

    In addition to these rights, the FDCPA prohibits all kinds of bad behavior by debt collectors. If the debt collector violates these prohibitions, they might be subject to fines and compensation to the consumer.

     So here are some key takeaways to understand.

    1. Federal law gives consumers powerful legal rights that they can enforce against debt collectors.
    2. Enforcing these rights requires following certain steps that can be difficult to understand and execute. Many require drafting and mailing a physical letter to the debt collector. Letters are difficult to write, especially when they need to cite certain laws, state certain demands, and include specific notices. 
    3. Juris helps people enforce their legal rights! We’ve made drafting and mailing these kinds of letters easy, fast, and low cost. We’d be happy to help.

    Debt collection harassment is a gigantic problem.​

    The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a U.S. government agency that’s supposed to help Americans with money stuff. As part of this mission, they conducted a survey in 2015. They contacted thousands of Americans and asked them a bunch of questions about one subject: debt collection. 2,132 people responded, and what they said was shocking.

    • 1 in 3 said they’d been contacted in the past year by someone trying to collect on a debt.
    • 1 in 5 said they’d been contacted about a debt and the most recent collector contacted them too frequently. 
    • 1 in 6 said they’d been contacted about a debt that was wrong in some way. It either wasn’t theirs, it was owed by a family member, or it was for the wrong amount.1

    This all gets a lot more shocking when you consider that this survey was designed to indicate what Americans are experiencing nationwide. The CFPB took these answers and extrapolated them to all Americans. What they found was very shocking.

    • More than 70 million Americans were contacted in the past year by someone trying to collect on a debt.
    • More than 44 million Americans were contacted about a debt and the most recent collector contacted them too frequently.
    • More than 37 million Americans were contacted about a debt in the past year that was wrong in some way. It either wasn’t theirs, it was owed by a family member, or it was for the wrong amount.

    These findings are in line with other studies too. In 2013, a study by the Urban Institute found that 77 million Americans have a debt in collections.2 ACA International, which represents creditors and debt collectors, estimates their industry “makes in excess of one billion consumer contacts annually.”3

    So here are some key takeaways to understand.

    1. If you’re being called by a debt collector, you are not alone. 70 million Americans are contacted each year.
    2. Debt collectors often get things wrong. When they say you owe them money, you need to ask for proof. 37 million Americans are contacted each year about debts they don’t believe they owe.
    3. You have powerful legal rights designed to protect you from harassment. Juris has made enforcing these rights pretty simple. We would love to help.

    A Juris DepositLetter can help get a security deposit back.

    Blog Header - Get Your Security Deposit Bacl

    Over 21 million Americans move out of their rented home each year, and virtually all landlords require security deposits, which means there are many tenants currently trying to recover security deposits that are being illegally withheld. This is a huge problem.

    Lawmakers have tried to end the problem. They’ve passed state laws that give tenants powerful legal rights to recover their deposits.

    The problem persists today because these legal rights are difficult to determine and difficult to enforce. Laws are really hard to understand. It’s even harder to determine which ones apply to your situation. And lawyers, the only service providers that can help, are really expensive to hire.

    That’s why Juris used technology to built a new solution; a new way to determine and enforce legal rights.

    It may feel like the only way to enforce legal rights is by taking someone to court. But any lawyer will tell you that when two people are in a dispute, it’s very rare that they actually go to court. Usually, the people in a dispute can work it out themselves. In fact, usually, they must work it out themselves because going to court can be very expensive and time-consuming.

    The consequence of this dynamic is that people can often enforce their legal rights just by showing the other side that they would win if the dispute went to court. They just have to convince the other side that the law is on their side. And that’s what a Juris DepositLetter does.

    Here are the steps:

    • Your landlord is unresponsive or has refused to return some or all of your security deposit.
    • You go to our DepositLetter page and click the Start My Letter button.
    • You answer some questions online, which will take about 10 minutes. Our technology will automatically determine which questions to ask, determine your strongest legal rights, then draft a letter citing those rights and making demands of the landlord. 
    • We show you the letter immediately, which you read and approve. 
    • We automatically print, package, and send the letter to the landlord by tracked mail. Since it’s tracked, we can let you know when it’s delivered. And, if you ever do go to court over the security deposit, you’ll be better able to prove that the landlord received the letter.

    Here’s what a DepositLetter achieves: 

    • A DepositLetter shows the landlord that you know your legal rights, which may cause them to return the security deposit immediately.
    • A DepositLetter shows the landlord that you know how to get a court to enforce your rights, which may cause them to return the security deposit immediately.
    • A DepositLetter creates a record of what has happened, which means that it increases your probability of proving to a court what happened if necessary.

    So here are some key takeaways to understand.

    1. The majority of legal disputes are ended without going to court, through private arguing about who has the better case.
    2. The way to end a dispute privately is to determine your legal rights and then convince the other side that your rights are stronger than theirs.
    3. A DepositLetter is a fast, easy, affordable way to determine your legal rights against a landlord and to convince a landlord that they should return your money. We would love to help.

    Tenants have powerful legal rights against landlords withholding security deposits.​

    Blog Header - You have security deposit rights

    Landlords have been requiring security deposits from tenants for decades. And for decades, tenants have been fighting to get their security deposits back. Over 21 million Americans move out of a rental each year, which means there are a lot of people that have had to fight.1 Given the scale of this problem, many tenants complained to state lawmakers. The result is that in every American state today, laws exist to help tenants get their security deposits back from their landlords.

    Each state has their own unique laws around security deposits. A tenant in Oregon has different rights than a tenant in Arkansas. But there are some legal rights that tend to appear across the different states, which we detail below.

    Tenants have the right to get their security deposit back within a certain amount of time.

    A landlord cannot wait months and months to return a tenant’s security deposit. State laws tend to set strict deadlines from move out. In New York, a landlord has 14 days from move out to return the security deposit. If they don’t do this, then they lose their right to make any deductions. They have to give it all back regardless of any damage or unpaid rent.2 In Washington state, a landlord has 21 days from the vacancy date to return the security deposit. If they fail to do this, they have to give it all back, and might be liable for double the amount plus the costs of recovery.3 

    Tenants have the right to a written explanation for any deductions the landlord made from the security deposit.

    In most states, a landlord can’t make deductions from a security deposit then just send the tenant a check for the amount that’s left. They must provide an itemized statement indicating the basis for any deductions. For example, this statement would say something like “$300 – To repair broken window in second floor rear bedroom”. It might also include a receipt showing that $300 was paid to a contractor to fix the window. This statement is important because it gives the tenant the information required to challenge any of the deductions.

    Tenants have the right to not pay for “ordinary” damage to the rental.

    Landlords are prohibited from making deductions from the deposit to fix “ordinary” damage to the rental. Ordinary damage is generally the natural deterioration that happens to a rental over time from normal use. Paint fades over time. Faucets start to leak. Carpets get worn down. The tile in the bathroom comes loose. State laws say that the cost of repairing this kind of damage falls on the landlord, not the tenant. Tenants have the legal right to challenge any deductions made for this reason. The security deposit can, however, be used to pay for “excessive” damage to the rental. If you’re playing golf in your bedroom and put a series of 2 inch holes in your wall, you’d have to pay to fix that.

    Tenants have the right to not pay for damage done to the rental by vandals. 

    This one is pretty straightforward. If someone you don’t know throws a rock through your window, most states say the landlord must pay to fix it. The security deposit cannot be used to fix damage done by vandals.

    Some tenants have the right to get their full deposit back when the landlord exceeded the state’s security deposit amount limit.

    Some states have passed laws that impose limits on the amount a landlord can require as a security deposit. In New York, a landlord cannot collect a security deposit greater than one month’s rent.4 In New Jersey, a landlord cannot collect a security deposit greater than one and one-half times the monthly rent.5 When landlords violate these laws, the tenant frequently has the legal right to get their full deposit back regardless of the damage to the rental.

    Some tenants have the right to get interest earned from their security deposit during their rental period.

    Some state laws require that landlords place their tenants’ security deposits in bank accounts that earn interest. When the tenant moves out, the landlord is required to give that interest to the tenant. This is the case in New York and New Jersey, among other states. If the landlord fails to hand over this interest, the tenant can sue for it.

    Across the 50 states there are many other legal rights that tenants have when getting their security deposit back, but these are the big ones.

     So here are some key takeaways to understand.

    1. State laws gives tenants powerful legal rights that they can enforce when getting their security deposits back from landlords.
    2. The first step to enforcing these rights is to send the landlord a physical letter citing the correct laws and demanding the money back. Drafting and mailing such a letter isn’t easy to do alone.
    3. Juris helps people enforce their legal rights and get back their security deposits! We’ve made drafting and mailing these kinds of letters easy, fast, and low cost. We’d be happy to help.

    Security deposit withholding is a gigantic problem.

    More U.S. households are renting now than at any point in the last 50 years. There are 43.3 million American households currently renting their apartment or house.1

    Pretty much every landlord renting out an apartment or house requires each tenant to give them a security deposit. So let’s say there are 40 million American households that have given hundreds or thousands of dollars to their landlord as a deposit. 

    This deposit is supposed to be used by the landlord for very specific purposes. The most common purposes are to cover unpaid rent, to fix excessive damage to the rental caused by the tenant, and to cover violations of the rental agreement.

    The problem arises when the tenant moves out. And lots of people are moving out, which means this problem is happening to lots of people. In 2018, more than 21.4 million Americans moved out of their rented apartment or house.2

    When a renter moves out, their landlord has to decide how much of the deposit they’ll keep. The basis of this decision is subjective. As an example, some think a one inch hole in the wall is “ordinary” damage, which means the landlord should pay the cost of fixing it. Others might think a hole of that size is “excessive” damage, which means the tenant’s deposit should pay the cost of fixing it. The final piece to call out is that landlords are running businesses, and they want to make money. To summarize the situation:

    • The landlord is running a business and wants to make money.
    • The landlord is holding a big pile of the tenant’s money.
    • The landlord gets to decide how much of this money to keep.
    • The criteria the landlord uses to make this decision are subjective.

    You can see how the elements of this situation tend to create an unfair outcome for the tenant. Landlords frequently withhold tenants’ security deposits without good reason.

    So here are some key takeaways to understand.

    1. If your landlord is giving you a hard time about your security deposit, you are not alone. Millions of Americans deal with this problem every year.
    2. Landlords often try to keep an unfair amount of their tenants’ security deposits. When they say you can’t get it back, they might be wrong. You need to get back the money to which you are legally entitled.
    3. You have powerful legal rights designed to protect you from being taken advantage of. State lawmakers know about this problem and have passed laws to help tenants. Juris has made enforcing these rights pretty simple. We would love to help.

    Next Steps After a DepositLetter

    Blog Header - Debt Collector Rights

    If your old landlord has received your DepositLetter and refuses to return your money, you have a few different options. We’ve laid them out here so you can think them through and choose your best course of action. We’re happy to answer any questions regarding these steps but do not provide direct assistance with them.

    1. Send a follow up email. It’s possible that the landlord thought hard about returning your money but is still hoping you’ll go away. If you send an email, the landlord may decide you aren’t giving up anytime soon and give in to your demand. We recommend attaching a copy of your DepositLetter to this email so they see it again.
    2. Send another letter. Again, it’s possible that your landlord is just hoping you’ll go away. If you send another letter, they may decide you aren’t giving up and give in to your demand. Currently, Juris does not offer a service for second letters, so you’ll have to draft and mail the letter yourself. We recommend sending it by certified mail so you can prove in court, if necessary, that you sent it and it was delivered.
    3. Get help from a legal aid organization. These organizations provide free help to people in need of legal services. The Legal Services Corporation is a non-profit that connects people to free legal aid in their local area. Click here to go to their website, then look for the “Find Legal Aid” button in the top right.
    4. Hire a lawyer to help you sue the landlord. This might be difficult since most lawyers charge hundreds of dollars an hour, which will eventually outweigh the value of your security deposit. You can start looking using Google.
    5. Sue the landlord without a lawyer. This is not as hard as it may sound. Google your state along with the term “small claims court”. Most states have websites with helpful guides instructing you on how to sue someone in small claims court.

    We hope this information is helpful and we wish you the best of luck!