If your home was in Burlington, you can ask for a hearing with the Burlington Housing Board of Review, or you can go to small claims court. The main advantage of going to the Housing Board of Review is that you will not pay a fee to the Housing Board of Review.
Find the Burlington Housing Board of Review hearing request form on the City of Burlington website. Or go to City Hall and ask for the form.
Anywhere else in Vermont, you should file a “Complaint” with the small claims court in the county where you lived. In a lawsuit, the Complaint is the document that tells the court and the defendant what you are asking for. Find the Small Claims Complaint form on the Vermont Judiciary website. You can start a small claims case in Vermont even if you have moved out of state.
Write down why you disagree with the landlord for keeping the security deposit. This can be a very simple statement.
Examples: “I didn't owe back rent and I didn't cause damage to my apartment.” Or, “My landlord did not give me a reason why they kept my security deposit.”
You can ask for double the amount of the deposit if your landlord never gave you your security deposit or a written explanation within 14 days of moving out.
If you are filing a Burlington Housing Board of Review form, you must fill out the form and send it to the city:
within 30 days of getting a letter from your landlord about the security deposit, or
within 44 days of when you moved out if your landlord did not give you a written explanation of why they kept your deposit.
In the Burlington Housing Board of Review, the next step is to get a letter about your hearing.
In small claims court, you have six years to start a small claims case about your security deposit. But in most cases it doesn't make sense to wait that long. Your evidence is stronger when it is still fresh.
Mail one copy of the Small Claims Complaint to the court and one copy to your landlord.
There is a filing fee for small claims court. In 2020 it was $65 for claims under $1,000 or $90 for claims more than $1,000. You can either pay the fee when you mail the Complaint, or fill out a fee waiver form. The fee waiver form gives the court information about your income and expenses. The court will decide if you should have to pay the filing fee.
In small claims court, you then wait for your landlord to answer your Complaint in writing.
It's important to know that the small claims process can take months to complete. It can then take months or even years to collect what you are owed.