Small claims court for landlord dispute?

Q: We moved out of our apartment 2 weeks ago and I contacted my landlord to ask about getting the deposit back. She informs me we have a flea infestation and will be withholding at least some of our very expensive deposit. We were shocked because at first, this may sound plausible because we do have a cat and a dog. However, all our pets have been on flea meds forever. I have inspected them and our vets have inspected them and they do not have fleas. They never have. Nor have I ever seen a single flea or gotten a bite. As far as I am concerned this is a total lie. Do I have a case for small claims court or is this a losing battle? I am a poor graduate student and I feel like I am just getting taken advantage of. We have been model tenets and were anal about cleaning the apartment when we left. Thank you. (Plum Borough, PA)

A: Generally, a landlord has thirty (30) days to return a security deposit to a tenant after vacancy. Proof is always an issue in these cases. My suggestion is to send the landlord a written demand via regular mail and certified mail, return receipt, (green card), in which you request your security deposit to be returned and provide your new forwarding arrest. You can state in the letter the date upon which you vacated the premise. The burden would then be on the landlord to either pay you or provide written reasons why she is not. If you feel her reasons are not genuine, you can file a complaint for return of the security deposit plus costs at the local District Justice. If you win the landlord is subject to paying you damages above and beyond your deposit and costs. I would have your veterinarian documents prepared for court. If the landlord is represented by counsel, you may want to have one as well.

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