I was a tenant, and I have a dispute with a landlord (a leasing corporation) over the security deposit. Based on the facts alone, it seems to me that the law is on my side (however I do know that in the USA this does not guarantee a win).
Originally the landlord claimed that I am responsible for a damage, therefore they would keep the whole deposit to fix it. However, after some correspondence with the landlord, they said they were willing to keep from my deposit only an amount that happens to be just slightly higher than the local Small Claims court fee (if I choose to file a claim there).
For example, the landlord is willing to take only $100 out of the deposit, while the court fee is $95.
Essentially, the landlord makes it useless for me to file a claim to defend myself.
But if I do file a claim and win, is it normal in a Small Claims court in the USA for the plaintiff to ask not only for a refund of the money that was taken unduly, but also for the defendant to refund the court filing fee the plaintiff had to pay, and maybe other expenses of the plaintiff like a compensation for the time lost on corresponding with the landlord and filing a claim?
Otherwise, it is an incentive for landlords to steal small amounts from deposits whenever they just think they have an excuse.