Moving Out and Getting Your Security Deposit

There are rent laws that landlords must follow regarding returning security deposits. Any deductions for repairs must be for damages that are not ordinary wear and tear such as scuffs on the walls, or wearing carpet.

According to rental deposit law, the landlord must give you an accounting sheet, have your rental deposit return occur within 2-4 weeks after you move out, and pay your rental deposit interest. Rent laws vary so check the laws in your area.  If you think you are responsible for repairs, it is a good idea to fix them before you move out that way you will get most if not all of your security deposit back.  Also you may want to do a final walk through with the landlord so there are no misunderstandings as to damages.   Be sure to leave a forwarding address with the landlord so he or she knows where to mail your security deposit. 

 

Security Deposit as Last Month’s Rent

If your lease states that your security deposit can be used as your last month’s rent, then just confirm this with your landlord so there are no misunderstandings.  Otherwise you will need to pay your last month’s rent and wait for the landlord to mail you the security deposit, or you can work out an arrangement with the landlord to keep the security deposit as the last month’s rent.  

Statement of Deductions

The landlord must legally give you a statement of any deductions that were made from your security deposit refund. Expenses for reasonable wear and tear cannot be deducted. 

Unpaid Rent

Unpaid rent may be deducted from the security deposit.

Cleaning and Damages

Expenses for cleaning the unit and restoring it to its original condition and damages for broken items can be deducted, but not items that are considered ordinary wear and tear. Examples of damages that are legally deductible would be cigarette burns, broken tiles, broken windows, torn screens, carpet stains, water stains or excessive scratches on hardwood floors, etc.

If the Statement Doesn’t Cover the Deductions

You have the right to ask for an itemized statement of deductions if the landlord has deducted any money from your security deposit. Legally the landlord must provide you with the statement. .

Abandoned Property

The landlord must give written notice to the tenant that the abandoned property was left and give the tenant a reasonable time to come and remove the property and advise the tenant that if it is not removed within that time, the property will be given away or destroyed.    

What Happens if You Are Sued?

If your landlord sues you for breaking the lease or for damages, you will need to either get the lawsuit dismissed or defend yourself.  You may need to hire an attorney unless the matter was filed in small claims court, then you can defend yourself.  If the landlord sues you for an unlawful detainer action for nonpayment of rent and you had a valid reason not to pay, such as the landlord did not make major repairs, the apartment was inhabitable, or the landlord violated a health or safety code, you will need to prove this information.  If you lose the unlawful detainer, you will be evicted.  Lawsuits are public records and can show up on your credit report.   


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