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A North Carolina landlord who is being sued by the state’s Attorney General over security deposit violations says his lease is to blame.

The lawsuit charges deceptive trade practices over claims the landlord routinely failed to return security deposits and that he co-mingled security deposit funds in an ordinary business account.

Some landlords need to be taught a lesson, Attorney General Roy Cooper said. The law on security deposits is clear and they must follow it.

But the landlord says the problem was his lease agreement. In a news interview, he explains that he found the form lease on a realtors’ website, and did not realize that the security deposit provisions in the form contradicted current security deposit laws in North Carolina.

Other landlords can learn from the mistake. When using online rental forms, be sure to choose forms from a source that has both state-specific and up-to-date forms. One problem with using forms from websites is the difficulty in determining whether the law has changed since the form was posted.

It’s always a good idea to run the online form past an attorney before using it for the first time. That way, you catch any mistakes early on, before mass-producing the problem for every tenant.

The Attorney General says he will be seeking a $5,000 penalty against the landlord for each security deposit violation.

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