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Fountain Hills woman demands $600 rent deposit back

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(Source: KPHO/KTVK) (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

The Phoenix area rental market is pretty hot.

In fact, a recent report indicated that rent is steadily climbing, sending some tenants scrambling to find roommates.

But people need to be careful who they choose.

"I've lived in Scottsdale the previous eight years and I wanted to get out of the hustle and bustle," said Ashley Dernovsek.

Dernovsek said she discovered that Fountain Hills was just the quiet area she had been looking for.

However, before finally settling down she went through the exhausting process of trying to find someone to split rent with.

"So I started looking online for roommates, people that were looking for roommates cause I wanted to get rid of my stuff and kind of move in," Dernovsek said.

Dernovsek came across a Fountain Hills home and discovered the renter inside was interested in subleasing part of the home.

"Checked out the place, he said great, we talked from there got a deposit going and signed a lease and then I'd move in September 1st."

Ashley handed over a $600 deposit in June even though she wouldn't be moving in until September.

But when that moving day drew closer, she said she got bad news from her future roommate.

"And he said, uh well my girlfriend is having a problem with this and I was like 'what last minute?!'”

Dernovsek said she was disappointed but didn't want to cause problems. So, she asked for her $600 deposit back.

"And I said well 'ok, since you're at fault, I assume I'll get my deposit back and he said yup, I'll mail it to you what is your address."

But three months later, Dernovsek said she's never received her $600.

"Disputes over deposits are very common," explains Jose Alarcon, a landlord-tenant counselor for the City of Phoenix.

Alarcon said as long as tenants give a written five-day notice through certified mail to their roommate or landlord, then Arizona law dictates any deposits should be returned.

"So the landlord at that point if they're refusing to provide possession then they have no right to keep any money whether it's prepaid rent, deposit, any money that was exchanged," said Alarcon.

Alarcon said these disputes are common so as a potential renter you need to:

1. Read and review the contract carefully.

2. And request your own provisions be added to protect yourself, things like getting your security deposit returned if the agreement falls through.

"A contract is a two-way street, it is a negotiation it's an agreement between two parties, not just one," said Alarcon.

Ashley said she can't do without $600 and now wonders how many other potential renters got ripped off.

"If it's happened to me, I wonder if it's happened to other people. Other girls, it blows me out of the water," said Dernovsek.

3 On Your Side did talk to the person who took Dernovsek's $600.

He claims he had every right to keep the money claiming she's the one who backed out of the deal.

Regardless, he said he will send her the check at the end of the month. 

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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Gary HarperGary Harper is the senior consumer and investigative reporter for 3 On Your Side at KTVK-TV.

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Gary Harper
3 On Your Side

With more than 20 years of television experience, Gary has established himself as a leader in the industry when it comes to assisting viewers and resolving their consumer-related issues. His passion and enthusiasm have helped him earn an Emmy for Best Consumer Reporter from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He’s also garnered several Emmy nominations

He has negotiated resolutions with companies of all sizes, including some of the biggest corporations in the nation.

Gary has successfully recouped more than $1 million for viewers around the state, making 3 On Your Side one of the most popular segments on KTVK and the station's Web site.

He's best known for investigating and confronting unscrupulous contractors. In fact, many of his news reports have led to police investigations and jail time for those who were caught. Viewers, as well as the companies and people he investigates, regard him as consistently being thorough and fair.

Gary has been with KTVK-TV since 1997. Prior to his arrival in Phoenix, he worked for WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he was as an anchor and reporter.

Gary is from Chicago, but launched his television career in Lubbock, Texas, after earning a broadcast journalism degree from Texas Tech University. Following his graduation, he was quickly hired by KLBK-TV in Lubbock, where he enterprised and broke numerous exclusive reports. His aggressive reporting in Texas helped garner him Best Reporter by the Associated Press.

Gary has been married since 1994 and is the proud father of two sons. When he's not helping viewers, Gary is busy catching up on his favorite college and professional football teams as well as cheering on his beloved Texas Tech Red Raiders.

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