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Garcia v. Thong

New Mexico Supreme Court
895 P.2d 226 (1995)


Facts

Benjamin Thong (defendant) rented an apartment from Judy Garcia (plaintiff). Under the terms of the rental agreement, Thong paid Garcia a $200 security deposit. Garcia did not return the deposit to Thong after he moved out. Nor did she account for deductions from the security deposit in a written statement. Garcia later brought suit against Thong, seeking $1,763.05 in damages to the apartment. Thong counter-claimed for the return of his security deposit, relying on a New Mexico statute (Statute) governing security deposits. The Statute allows a landlord to withhold all or part of a security deposit to pay for damages to the premises by the tenant, but requires the landlord to provide an itemized written statement of the deductions as well as the remaining balance, “if any,” within 30 days. A landlord who fails to do so forfeits the right to withhold any part of the deposit, forfeits the right to assert a claim for damages, and becomes liable for any attorney’s fees expended by the tenant to recover the deposit. The magistrate judge ruled in Garcia’s favor, granting her damages in the amount of $908.00. The trial court also ruled in favor of Garcia, and granted her damages in the amount of $1,315.00. Specifically, the trial court ruled that the Statute was inapplicable to Garcia because her claimed damages were in excess of the deposit amount.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Frost, J.)

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