Security deposit downer: New York tenant says she had end-of-lease nightmare

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Nina Pineda reports on the security deposit nightmare.

It's a story that has happened to many victims before -- you're owed a security deposit check for an apartment you rented and somehow the landlord just never manages to get the check to you.

It happened big time to one Bellerose family, but this time, the woman waiting for the check called Nina Pineda and got 7 on her side.

With her toddler in tow, Phylicia Stephenson was trying to get on the road to Texas to start a new job. But her big move was made even more taxing because her family is owed thousands by her rental company.

"You'd think you'd get your security deposit back if you had no issues," Stephenson said while packing her SUV and balancing her 1-year old baby girl, Ileana, on her hip as she prepares for a four-day trip.

The Stephensons moved out of their apartment last September and Phylicia left the apartment spotless. She was due her her entire security deposit, $1975.

"I left it perfectly for them and they didn't have any complaints. They never said they were taking it away because they didn't like how the apartment was," she said.

Phylicia said the building management company, Fairfield Properties, said it mailed the full security deposit to her, claiming the check got lost in the mail.

But back in July of 2017, weeks before her lease was up, Phylicia asked Fairfield to send her check to her new address in Queens, but the management company admitted to 7 On Your Side it goofed up sending the check to her old address months after she moved out.

When the envelope was returned back to Fairfield, they mailed it out to her forwarding address, but they got the address wrong again: sending it to 84-16 instead of 81-46.

"I asked them, 'Can I come to your office and pick it up,'" said Phylicia. "And they refused and said it was going against their policy and I wasn't allowed to pick it up."

Last spring, she took the company to court and won. A judge ordered Fairfield to pay up, but months later still no refund. She went to the Suffolk County Sheriff, but she says it couldn't collect either.

Phylicia was about to just move and give up when she called 7 on Your Side. We contacted Fairfield and the rental giant acted quick to send her refund, but amazingly Fairfield Properties botched her address a third time, switching her address number 350 for 305.

But five days later, the check finally showed up.

"Thank you 7 On Your Side!" said Phylicia, happy to finally get almost $2,000 returned.

Suffolk Small Claims Court also ordered Fairfield Properties to pay Phylicia for damages she said Fairfield never repaired. But Fairfield Properties is disputing that, attempting to vacate the original judgment.

Regarding the security deposit, Fairfield said it never intended to deprive Phylicia of her deposit. Its rep also said it never knew about losing the judgment.

Some big takeaways here: Review your lease so you know your rights -- and the timeline when it comes to getting your security deposit back.

Next, document your apartment's condition before moving out. That means take video, pictures and if you can get a condition report from your landlord, that's even better.

And lastly, communicate with your landlord via email. This way you'll have a record of all your notifications.

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