Things a Landlord Can Deduct from a Security Deposit

Did you know that your landlord can deduct money from your security deposit? Yes, they can! Before going ahead, let’s understand what a security deposit is. The tenant’s security deposit is money given to the landlord to guarantee good behavior. It secures the revenue for the landlord if anything happens to the apartment, such as damage or violation of the agreement (such as moving out before its conclusion). The deposit will be returned at the end of the lease, less any deductions for repairs/restoration that might be required.

When you sign a new apartment lease, it’s vital to read the small print carefully. Your lease should not only address issues like your tenancy regulations and what you can anticipate from your landlord in terms of privacy, safety, and other major concerns, but it should also set out the terms and conditions for getting your security deposit back, including when your landlord can and can’t deduct money from it.

Landlords are allowed to make deductions from a security deposit for several reasons: damage to the property missed rent payments, or cleaning services needed beyond what was expected at the end of your lease. However, there are limits to how much a landlord can charge for each of these. 

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What can be deducted from the security deposit?

Tenants have rights, which means your landlord can’t just keep your security deposit at random. They must provide a genuine cause for keeping part or all your deposit, and local rental rules must back that reason. While regulations and rules differ from location to location, here are six common things that a landlord may take from a security deposit.

Damage to the Property

There’s a presumption that you’ll leave the premises in the same condition as you found it. This doesn’t imply that minor wear and tear isn’t anticipated or permitted, but it does imply that if you move out and cause significant property damage, such as damaged doors or cabinets, ripped up carpet, or chipped countertops, you’re probably going to be charged for it.

The amount that can be deducted for damage will vary depending on the state or province you live in, with some allowing the landlord to charge the cost of repairs while others limiting the amount to one month’s rent or less. 

Missed Rent Payments

The prospect of having your security deposit taken from you for non-payment of rent should not come as a surprise. Your landlord can take the unpaid rent from your security deposit, as well as any late costs if you leave your unit before it is entirely paid up. 

A landlord can withdraw money from a security deposit, but a tenant is not permitted to use the security deposit to make a rent payment. Instead of assuming that your landlord will just take any remaining payments out of your security deposit, you’ll need to continue paying your rent as usual throughout the months leading up to moving out.

Excessive Cleaning Costs

If you move out and leave a huge mess behind, it’s practically certain that you’ll lose some of your security deposit to cleaning fees if you do so without warning. 

This is one of the most prevalent reasons landlords take money out of a security deposit. It’s also tough to fight once you’ve already moved out. Please take photos of your apartment after you’ve packed all your belongings but before you return the keys so that you can establish proof of how it looked when you moved out.

Also Read: Home Cleaning Services to Use When Moving

Unpaid Utilities

A landlord can utilize your security deposit to cover the cost of unpaid utilities, just as they may with unpaid rent.

As a rough estimate, settle any overdue payments to your landlord before moving out, so you don’t have to worry about them being taken out of your security deposit later.

Left behind items

If you forget to pack a few items, you won’t have to worry about losing your security deposit because of it. However, if you leave something major behind—such as a couch, mattress, or bed frame—your landlord will most likely take the expense of getting rid of it out of your security deposit. However, if you haven’t spoken with your landlord about it, you’re taking a significant gamble. If the item is in good working order and you haven’t contacted one of the numerous charities that will take your trash for free as a better option, call in a junk removal service. It’ll likely be cheaper than losing your entire security deposit.

Breaking your lease

Breaking a lease early might result in the forfeiture of your security deposit. If you want to leave before the end of your rental agreement, check your contract to see what fines you may face if you do so. Also, speak with your landlord about other options, such as finding someone to take over the rest of your contract. 

Also Read: Tips to Get Your Security Deposit Back When You Move

What happens if the security deposit is not returned?

In many states, if a landlord fails to give back all your security deposit or only part of the security deposit without providing a written explanation of every deduction, you have the option to sue. This legal course of action is referred to as a Wrongful Withholding of Security Deposits or a Wrongful Retention of Security Deposit lawsuit in many jurisdictions. 

If you’re considering taking legal action, contact a lawyer who specializes in landlord-tenant law to discuss the specifics of your case. A consultation will help you understand how likely you are to win, what damages you could be awarded, and how much it would cost to take legal action.

Also read: Rights And Obligations Of Tenants And Landlords

How to get your security deposit back?

You may not have to worry about having things taken from your security deposit or losing your deposit if you’re a courteous renter and your landlord follows all local rental regulations. 

Some things you can do to help you get your security deposit back in full:

  • Give proper notice before moving out, preferably in writing.
  • Return all keys to your landlord.
  • Remove all your belongings, including trash.
  • Leave the property in the same condition as when you moved in, or better.
  • Make sure to document the property’s condition before and after you move out with photos or video footage.
  • Leave the property clean and free of damage (take photos as proof). If there are any damages, make sure to get repair estimates and provide these to your landlord.
  • Make sure all bills are paid, including rent.

Conclusion

The security deposit is a tricky thing. On the one hand, you want to feel confident that your landlord will be willing to return the money when you move out if they are happy with how well you take care of their property and leave it in good condition. However, there’s also the chance that something might go wrong, like an unpaid bill or broken dishwasher—in which case, having documentation can help make sure all parties get what they deserve at the end of the day. Knowing your rights as a tenant is the best way to protect yourself and understand all rules and regulations before moving.

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FAQ

Can I get my security deposit back if I’m not happy with the property’s condition when I move out?

Yes, in most cases, you have the right to get your security deposit back if you are unhappy with the property’s condition when you leave. However, you will need to provide documentation of the damage, such as repair estimates, to your landlord.

Can my landlord keep my security deposit if I break my lease?

It depends on your state and local laws, but usually, the answer is yes. If you break your lease before it’s over, your landlord may be able to keep some or all your security deposit. 

Can my landlord keep my security deposit if I move out before the end of my lease?

Again, it depends on your state and local laws. In most cases, if you move out before your lease is up, your landlord can keep some or all your security deposit. 

What should I do if my landlord doesn’t return my security deposit?

If your landlord doesn’t give you your security deposit back or only gives you part of it, you may have the option to take legal action. Contact a lawyer who specializes in landlord-tenant law for more information.

What can I do to make sure I get my full security deposit back?

To make sure you get your full security deposit back, give proper notice before moving out, return all keys to your landlord, remove all your belongings, leave the property in the same condition as when you moved in (or better), and make sure to document the condition of the property before and after you move out. Leave the property clean and free of damage (take photos as proof). If there are any damages, make sure to get repair estimates and provide these to your landlord. Make sure all bills are paid, including rent.

Can the landlord take the deposit for wear and tear?

The landlord cannot take the security deposit for wear and tear in most cases. This means they cannot keep your deposit if you left the property in the same condition as when you moved in. However, if there are damages that exceed normal wear and tear, your landlord may be able to keep some of your security deposit. 

What is the average amount of a security deposit?

The average amount of a security deposit varies depending on your state and local laws. However, it is typically between one- and two months’ rent. 

Can the landlord raise the rent if I don’t renew my lease?

Yes, the landlord can raise the rent in most cases if you don’t renew your lease. However, they cannot raise the rent more than what is allowed by your state or local laws. 

If I’m a student and my landlord wants me to leave, can they keep my security deposit?

It depends on your state and local laws, but the answer is no in most cases. Your landlord cannot keep your security deposit because you are a student and have decided to leave. However, if you break your lease or damage the property, they may be able to keep some or all your security deposit. 

What is the earliest my landlord can take my security deposit?

The earliest a landlord can take your security deposit is when you sign the lease or rental agreement. 

If I move out and leave the property clean and in good condition, do I still get my security deposit back?

It depends on your state and local laws, but in most cases, you should get your security deposit back if you move out and leave the property in good condition. 

Can the landlord evict me if I don’t renew my lease?

Yes, in most cases, the landlord can evict you if you don’t renew your lease. However, they cannot evict you for any reason other than not renewing your lease. 

Can the landlord raise the rent or evict me without notice if I’m a month-to-month tenant?

It depends on your state and local laws, but the answer is yes in most cases. A landlord can usually raise the rent or evict you without notice if you are a month-to-month tenant.

See also: Best Cities To Move To Start A New Life

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Rostislav Shetman is the founder of 9Kilo Moving. He has been in the moving and relocation industry for more than 25 years, making him an expert in his field. Rostislav started as a helper, dispatcher and driver and has worked his way up to owning his own company. He takes great pride in his work and enjoys helping people relocate across the United States of America. When he's not working, Rostislav enjoys spending time with his family and friends. They are the light of his life and bring him happiness every day.