This is about a non-academic issue I've had with a student, who is outside of my department, and I would like to know if I should pursue it or just let it go.

I recently moved to the US for a postdoc and I sublet a room for a student over the summer. All interaction between the student and I was friendly and I enjoyed staying in her place. At the end of my stay, she told me that she would not give any of my deposit back and the reasons she gave me were, frankly, ridiculous. There was no damage to the apartment that needed to be paid for. After explaining to her (politely) what the purpose of a deposit is, she eventually gave back half of my deposit. This was just a check in the post, with no explanation of why she withheld the rest of it. I asked her to give me a breakdown of what she kept me money for but she has ignored all my emails since sending the check. Without evidence of what she has kept my money for, I see this as blatant theft.

So, my options are, do I go to her department and make a complaint because I have no other way of contacting (after moving out she asked me to only contact her via email), or do I let it go? If I make a complaint about her, could it backfire on me professionally?

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    This does not seem like an academic issue to me, more like a legal one. Why does it matter if she is a student? – PsySp Sep 25 '17 at 20:38
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    What on earth would their department do? – Azor Ahai Sep 25 '17 at 20:38
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    This doesn't belong here, but - you can get a lawyer or threaten with a lawcase - as with every non-academic landlord. Since I assume the deposit isn't much, try writing a letter in which you tell her to send proof of damage and repair costs, or else you will take steps to open a lawcase. The department has nothing to do with it and probably won't care. They might give you contact information, but since you know where she lives that should suffice. – Mark Sep 25 '17 at 20:42
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    Change "for" to "from" and it will clarify the legal question at hand. – Frank FYC Sep 25 '17 at 20:44
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because this is not about Academia. That the sub-lessor happens to be a student is irrelevant. – Fomite Sep 25 '17 at 21:00

Since you are aware of the need for an itemized deduction, take a moment on how to write a demand letter, send it via certified mail, and then check if the apartment complex allows for subletting (which I doubt).

If there is truly no reason for the deduction, implying legal action through small claims as well as involving the agency should have the individual reconsider their action.

  • I will do this, thanks. Writing a physical letter didn't occur to me and is much more sensible than bothering her department. – refinnej Sep 26 '17 at 21:47
  • Not the student's department. The Leasing Agency that is in charge of the Apartment (the Landlord). This is a completely seperate issue. Legal =/= Academia – Frank FYC Sep 26 '17 at 22:00
  • The leasing agency allow subletting, they just take a subletting fee and stay out of any disputes. I contacted them immediately but they were no help. – refinnej Sep 27 '17 at 0:57
  • Then your best avenue is small claims and only small claims. – Frank FYC Sep 27 '17 at 3:49

No, this will not backfire on you professionally (unless it somehow makes it into the media, and that's unlikely).

As one of the commenters mentioned, this is a purely legal matter outside of the academic setting. However, unless you have some proof (or she does), it will be a "you said, she said" argument. You could take it to small claims court, but the big question is if it's really worth your time and money to get back the other half of the deposit.

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