Landlord not returning deposit?

Hello everybody,

We seem to have a problem with the previous landlord - she has not returned our deposit one month after we moved out and gave the keys to her RE agent. Also, she is not responding to our emails requesting clarifications - whether there were any problems with the apartment, repairs or other work needed, etc.

I have already advised her today that as of 1 Sept we will ask for "juros de mora" of 4% yearly rate and that we will have to hire a lawyer to get the deposit back from her.

Is there anything else we can do?...

I hear this can be a frequent problem in Portugal...



Hi Cristian,

You should use the month's deposit (mês de caução) as rent for the last month you stayed in the property as a tenant. Situations like this happen with unreliable landlords. With what you will pay to your lawyer I don't know if it's worth it ....

Please read this: … 93#5075338

(Post #11 - Guarantee/Deposit/Caução)

The problem is that at the time (end of June) when we decided we wanted to move somewhere else we had already paid the last month's rent (the beginning of June). Besides, the landlord agreed with the move and never mentioned that she would not return the deposit - by the contrary, she assured us that the deposit will be returned after the inspection of the apartment. She finally answered yesterday saying she has used the deposit to pay the realtor to find a new tenant and for "deep cleaning".

So I think it's worth it to take her to court, if just to teach her a lesson. Plus, it's the right thing to do. Crooks like this usually expect that people are going to think it's not worth it, but this is not about money anymore, but about principle.

@ctomac When handing over the property to the landlord (or his representative), did you prepare a proper handover report saying that all was in good order when you left the apartment? This would usually be signed off by tenant and landlord. Otherwise how should a judge know that you didn't leave a complete pig stall behind that needed that super deep cleaning.

I thought I should leave an update here, hopefully it should help others in my situation in the future.

We ended up hiring a lawyer in order the try to get the deposit back. We paid almost 150 euros for her initial services: sending a letter to the landlord by registered mail where she informed the landlord that we are preparing to sue in case she does not return the full deposit, plus juros de mora plus our legal expenses.

The landlord of course refused and sent a letter to our lawyer stating her refusal.

Therefore the lawyer filed a suit against the landlord at the Julgado de Paz for a total sum of some 4000 euros (deposit 1500, juros de mora, legal expenses plus compensation for moral injuries - the landlord was stupid enough at some point to send me some really insulting emails)

We had an initial mediation term set for early December, which was suddenly postponed by about 10 days. During those 10 days our lawyer informed us that she had been contacted by the lawyer of the landlord, and that she wanted to settle. They offered 1300 euros in the beginning (our deposit was 1500), we declined, they offered to return the full deposit, we again declined and asked again for deposit, juros de mora and legal expenses.

Which the landlord accepted this time. We signed a letter at my lawyer's informing the julgado de paz that we drop the suit and that the landlord agreed to our request, and everything was settled on the same day once we got all of our money back.

There was 70 euros in the end to be paid to the julgado de paz for closing the suit, which was split between the two parts, so we paid 35 euros.

So we ended up with a net loss of about 20 euros from the pocket at the end of the whole adventure.

But the landlord ended up with a loss of juros de mora, plus our legal expenses, plus the 35 euros plus whatever her lawyer charged her, when she could have avoided all that by just handing back the deposit as legally required.

To answer to nz7521137, no, we did not have any handover report because we did not know this was necessary. I never had to sign such a report in any other place I rented in the past, there was usually a simple inspection of the apartment and that was all since I have always taken care to leave any apartment I lived in in pristine condition. So that was the case now as well, the landlord's agent inspected the apartment, did not have any particular observations, and that was all until the landlord informed us that she changed her mind and refuses to return the deposit.

On the other hand, I believe it is the landlord's job to prove that there were damages to the apartment and also prove the expenses needed to repair the damage. It is never the job of the accused to prove they are not guilty but the job of the accuser to prove that the accused is guilty, isn't it so? "Not guilty until proven otherwise", isn't that how the saying goes?

Anyway, against some of the opinions here, it was all well worth the trouble of hiring a lawyer.

And thanks for all the advice we got from other members, we'll be smarter about such things in Portugal in the future.

@ctomac Congratulations. Simply not returning the deposit is really a bad habit. In Germany it is often not returned for a reason, the latter might not be not understood by the tenant or simply fake.

@nz7521137 Thank you.

For us it became not strictly a matter of money anymore, but a matter of principle, at some point. There is right and there is wrong, and what she did was simply wrong, so we were willing to spend whatever necessary to prove this. Fortunately we have the financial means, but I feel for those who maybe cannot afford to hire a lawyer and the expenses of a lawsuit... it was for them that I wrote the lengthy update.

@ctomac Hey, congrats on your case. can you please let me know which law forum you got help from? I faced the same issue, and the landlord is not getting the deposit back and he even doesn't answer me.

You can approach the small claims court (julgados de paz) without legal representation -  they will help fill out the paperwork

@asma karoobi No law forum, I hired a lawyer recommended by my current landlord. Of course your prior landlord won't reply to your letters. Try sending registered mail as a first step, so that you have proof that you have approached them and asked for your deposit. Keep a copy of the letter. But, I would still recommend hiring a lawyer to handle it all rather than struggling on your own through the Portuguese legal system. After all, that is what a lot of the Portuguese landlords hope for, that their foreigner tenant won't bother. Well, I did, and I am happy I did. You should too.

@TonyJ1 I didn't feel comfortable going it alone, being a foreigner here in Portugal and all. And the 147 euros for the lawyer did not seem that much to pay to have legal representation.

@nz7521137  agreed - I am a landlord in Berlin and my tenants are students or starter- job professionals. I would, as a future tenant in Lisboa, never rent a place without a handover report-  check for potential humidity damage, burns or scratches in the kitchen and the full operation of immovable appliances. I've had tenants ruin fridges and kitchen stoves, etc etc. as a tenant you can report any accidental  damage to your rental insurance, but some opt to say nothing and do nothing -

only a handover report can save you from false accusations on both sides.

In this case, the landlady was a crook and didn't have any evidence against the former tenant.

BTW, I actually don't think that it's legal to withhold last month's rent and to “use” your deposit for it. What if you caused damage and the landlord has no recourse once you leave?

@ctomac May I ask for the lawyer contact, if it's possible?

BTW, I actually don't think that it's legal to withhold last month's rent and to “use” your deposit for it. What if you caused damage and the landlord has no recourse once you leave?

I also think so, but it seems to be done frequently in Portugal. I say that, because it is mentioned so frequently. When I left my rental apartment I agreed this with my landlord (but we got along very well).

@ctomac I am going through the same issue which involves a rogue landlord who is even charging me 400 euros for returning keys 2 days later, charging for dirty walls and bedsheets but can not provide evidence. I took photos of the property before leaving in anticipation of this problem.  My deposit was 500 but am willing to spend more than that just to teach them a lesson that they can´t take advantage of people like that.

Able to please share the contact of your lawyer ?

Hi Cristian, I sent you a message. I'm in the same situation now : ( Can you please recommend me your lawyer? Much appreciated!

I recognize that withholding the last month's rent is not done legally, but I had the same situation.  I was quite confident that my landlord would hold my deposit because she was very financially stressed.  I withhold the last.  month's rent.  She wasn't happy but it was worth the couple weeks of tension for me to get out and not worry about her returning my deposit.  The apartment was actually left in better condition that I found it. She was aware of the improvements made and I scheduled a pre-walk thru before I left that I documented and had her sign off on a "Walk Thru Report". 

Hey Cristian,

Congratulations on your win. We're in exactly the same situation with our landlord. He is keeping our deposit for repainting of the whole apartment even though the last time the place was painted was before the previous tenants moved in. And no one was there for the key handover, we got the keys from the previous tenants as our landlord was on holidays in Brazil and this time I handed the keys to his assistant on the street somewhere in Lisbon as he made me wait for him in the apartment for 40 min and in the end just did not show up. So for us at the moment it is also about the principal, he needs to be stopped. We talked to previous tenants and he also charged them 300 euros to fill 3 tiny holes where the paintings were hanging. So he uses the deposit however he sees fit and we won't allow it.

I was just wondering if you have a suggestion for a good English speaking lawyer that we could contact?

Hello everyone!

We also have a problem with the landlord.

Our rental finishes in March 2024, and our landlord has already decided to end the contract without any possibility of prolongation.

The story began in September, we arranged an appointment to discuss our rental conditions. At that moment he already told us that he was not interested in prolongation. Our house is packed with furniture and other stuff that belongs to the landlord.

Suddenly, yesterday he came over without any warnings or agreements and opened our front door. We were at home and I mentioned him. He didn't even make a call or at least ring the doorbell. Then he said the mess in the backyard and blamed us for making a mess. It was our weekend, we stayed at home with the kids and didn't expect anyone to come that day.

He left and then I wrote the message and asked for excuses and explanations of the case.

But he began to accuse us of misusing furniture and spoiled seat cushions, mentioned that the outdoor sunbed could not be stored outdoors) and so on. And after all, he said the deposit wouldn't cover all the damage. I asked to point out the list of potentially damaged pieces. And the answer was: “See you on key delivery at the end of the rental period.”

The pros on my end:

- the rental agreement is not registered in finanças

- privacy interference

- refused to negotiate

Would appreciate the contact of the lawyer, please.