As a single mom of three receiving public assistance, Gloria Hall* knew her rental property security deposit was all that stood between her family and homelessness. Having paid the $1,650 deposit to hold a rental house, she later learned that the landlord had rented the place to someone else—and refused to return her money.
Under pressure to pay her current rent and other bills, and unable to access the money she needed, Gloria turned to Legal Services of Greater Miami (LSGMI) and its Tenant Equal Justice Clinic for help.
Working with LSGMI on a remote basis during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Elle Hayes took on the case to help Gloria get her security deposit back from the landlord.
After reviewing a file of documents and a letter Gloria had already submitted, Elle helped her prepare and mail a demand letter to the landlord, allowing him a short amount of time to return the security deposit before proceeding to litigation. The landlord responded to say that Gloria was not owed any money.
In taking the next step to bring the matter to court, Elle helped Gloria file official court documents and prepare for the virtual hearing, where the judge sided with Gloria. The landlord was required to return her $1,650 security deposit.
“I felt so good about being able to help her,” Elle said. “Thinking about how she sounded on the phone when she found out she would be getting her security deposit back is one of my career highlights.”
Although the Tenant Equal Justice Clinic focuses its training and paperwork on landlord-tenant issues in Florida’s Miami-Dade County, Gloria had lost her security deposit to a landlord in Leon County.
Rather than refusing the case because it fell outside of the clinic’s geographic parameters, Elle took it on and handled the legal research herself, engaged the Leon County Clerk of Court and helped Gloria redraft the court paperwork appropriate for filing in Leon County.
“She found the best and most direct way for [Gloria] to get her money back,” said Jayme Cassidy, advocacy director for Legal Services of Greater Miami. “Because of Elle’s hard work, [Gloria] and her children ended up not being homeless.”
*Client’s name has been changed to protect her identity.