Ask Amy: What can you do if the landlord won’t return your deposit? Plus, help paying bills


From eviction issues to landlord complaints, we get a lot of questions about renter’s rights. In today’s “Ask Amy” she’s helping a viewer who has been waiting for months to get a deposit back. We are also answering a common question about where to go if you need help paying your rent or other bills.

It’s frustrating when you think you have money coming your way and it never does.

Question: “I have a problem with a former landlord, who didn’t return my deposit after 4 months of moving out. I tried countless calls, the manager is simply hiding. I also tried to contact the management company, but no answer at all. The only solution is to file a small claim over county court, but I am afraid it’s going to cost me more than the deposit actually is.” --Gaby

Answer: If your security deposit has been wrongly withheld or isn’t returned to you in a timely manner, contact the Texas Attorney General.

We did some digging and found more about what the Texas law says about deposits. By law, landlords cannot refuse to return the deposit without a valid reason. Texas law also states a landlord must return a deposit within 30 days of moving out. The law also says if they do withhold the deposit for “damages” they must give a detailed itemized list of reasons why.

This example is on the Texas Attorney General’s website: The landlord may not charge you for normal wear and tear on the premises and may only charge for actual abnormal damage. For example, if the carpet simply becomes more worn because you and your guests walked on it for a year, the landlord may not charge you for a new carpet. If your water bed leaks and the carpet becomes mildewed as a result, you may be charged.

Help to deal with apartment problems or landlord issues

In the Houston area, you can call the Houston Apartment Association and speak with a trained consultant to help answer your questions or to file a complaint against a property owner.

Here is what the HAA website says about helping people in the community: Apartment and other rental housing residents can contact the Houston Apartment Association at 713-595-0300 to speak to a trained consultant and ask questions about renter rights, the TAA lease contract or to file a complaint against their property owner. The Houston Apartment Association provides a variety of resources to aid renters and landlords in finding an amicable, fair resolution to landlord-renter disputes.

RELATED: ASK 2: What agency can I report to in regards to unlivable apartment conditions.

Question: Where can I go for help paying my rent? We get questions weekly from people who need help paying their rent or other bills.

Answer: There is one central place you can go to get help with paying rent or bills.

Call Texas Health and Human Services at 2-1-1 to learn about organizations helping with emergency rent and utility assistance. Catholic Charities also helps connect people with agencies that can help with bills.

We’ve put together a list of a few other organizations in the Houston area that might be able to help you. Keep in mind, the agencies mentioned above might connect you with these same groups, so make sure before reaching out.

The Houston Apartment Association also has a guide to help you find the right assistance group for you.

If you have a question you’d like our team to answer or have a story idea for Amy, send it to

About the Authors:

Passionate consumer advocate, mom of 3, addicted to coffee, hairspray and pastries.

Award-winning TV producer and content creator. My goal as a journalist is to help people. Faith and family motivate me. Running keeps me sane.