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I graduated in December 2015, and had someone take over my lease. They were rather destitute at the time, so instead of paying their security deposit upfront to replace mine when they moved in, I drafted an agreement we both signed explaining that the new tenant would pay the landlord his security deposit before the end of the lease, which ends today 5/27/2016.

I haven't received anything from my former landlord yet, and was looking to take the new tenant to court in order to get my money back, but I have a few questions.

Pertinent information that may help:
This all happened in the state of West Virginia
The new tenant is currently employed 40 hours a week at McDonald's

  1. The dollar amount in question is 480.00, would this be worth going to court over when considering court fees?
  2. In a case like this would a lawyer be necessary or too costly for the money lost?
  3. Do I stand a chance to win? The document I wrote was written with good will giving the guy the benefit of the doubt, so it is lacking any sort of legalese
  4. What happens if I win, and he can't pay?

I can comfortably walk away from the money if it is a lost cause, he saved me 2,375.00 dollars in rent money by taking over my lease, the only reason I truly want to pursue this is for the principle of the matter.

  • You need to not ask for legal advice here. I assume you know that you have the right to pursue a legal remedy, so I don;t know what question you have about the law. – user6726 May 27 '16 at 16:40
  • Ah, I was thinking Law could be used for legal advice as well, should I delete my post, and more importantly where could I go to answer my questions? – pianoisland May 27 '16 at 17:45
  • Alas, the only place where it's legal is a lawyer's office. – user6726 May 27 '16 at 19:08
  • How does this look from the landlord's perspective? Was he supposed to return your deposit after receiving the new tenant's deposit? If so, then it ought to have been arranged that if the new tenant never pays he would return the money to you. In that case, the amount would not be 480, just any money withheld for damages. If the landlord is reasonable and if you have a decent relationship with him, you should perhaps discuss that possibility with him. – phoog May 27 '16 at 20:59
  • It might vary from place to place, but it is quite possible that your small-claims court would grant relief. Again it may vary, but normally you don't need a lawyer in a small claims court, and the costs are low. Give your small claims court a ring and ask them what the costs are and if this kind of matter is in their jurisdiction. – davidgo May 28 '16 at 8:33
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Fees for filing in small-claims court vary by jurisdiction. If the defendant can't pay then you can't collect even if you win. If the defendant doesn't want to pay then the cost of collecting on a judgement will almost certainly exceed $500, though if successful in collecting you can often add those costs of collection to the judgement.

You do not need a lawyer to pursue a grievance in small-claims court. I don't know what the lowest rates are for lawyers in WV, but I'd be surprised if any lawyer would bill less than $100/hour, and even someone that cheap might be hard to find.

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