It is one of the significant things to understand before renting an apartment or other property.
Don't be confused. This is not used to pay any portion of your rent or any administration fees. If you are a good tenant and follow the rules, you are entitled to get this back (in the vast majority of cases) after you move out. And one last thing, the amount of the deposit is set by the landlord/seller. It is customary for the security deposit to be equal to one month's rent. But it could be more or less.
But many tenants aren't good renters. They don't keep the rental in good condition, and they don't abide by the terms of the lease. This will result in your security deposits being used for what they were designed for. Want to get all of the money back? Here is how.
A Security Deposit Defined
According to Investopedia, a security deposit is money paid to a landlord or the seller, that is given to secure the property against damage or loss. Security deposits are usually refundable, but in rare cases, are not. Security deposits in rentals are similar to earnest money deposits in home sales as they increase the chances of a person following the contract.
What am I Liable For
After you drop off your keys and exit the premises, the landlord will conduct a thorough walk-through. They are checking the property for damage beyond normal wear and tear. All states have different rules, but usually, the security deposit can only be used against damaged items. Here are a few examples of items that are beyond normal wear and tear.
Shattered or broken windows
Carpet that is heavily soiled or damaged
Deep scratches in wood flooring
Bathroom tiles that are cracked or chipped
Punch Holes in walls
If you hang photos on the walls in your apartment, be sure and repair the holes before you move out. This isn't normal wear and tear in many cases.
Let's not confuse damage with normal wear and tear. The latter term can be defined as simple everyday decline, that can be expected in and on a property that occurs from daily usage. Landlords usually cannot charge for the usual decline in a property from tenant usage. Here are a few examples of what normal wear and tear looks like.
Faded paint on the walls, or micro-tears in the wallpaper
Very small holes in walls that are the result of the doorknob continually hitting the wall upon opening
Dusty or dirty blinds that have not been cleaned
Light scratches on the wood floors. If the flooring is carpet, you probably will be allowed to have a few light stains. If you have pets living with you, expect to be assessed for urine stains.
If you are still confused, ask your landlord or read the law in your state as it is defined.
Conduct a Walk-Through Before You Drop off the Keys
Did you schedule a walk-through with your landlord? If you live in a larger type of complex like the Houston apartments in Downtown, you can call the apartment manager to arrange a time for the manager or maintenance staff to check out your rental home. This will give you an opportunity to find out what you might need to pay for.
If they point out potential repairs, you can repair them on your own if you like. Be sure and take some photos of the condition just in case. If all is good, then you can just drop off your keys.
Other Important Key Points to Consider
Don't leave trash in your rental after you leave.
Although you won't need to bring the residence into move-in condition, you will have to make sure it's clear of debris and trash.
Leave a forwarding address.
If your landlord doesn't know where to send the check for your refund, they won't be liable. They simply won't send out your payment because they don't know where to send it to.
Don't be Behind in Your Rent
Some tenants think they just won't pay their last month's rent. They believe that the security deposit will be used against it. That is entirely untrue. This not only will result in your security deposit being forfeited, but your landlord can also take you to court. Failure to pay can result in damage to your credit and additional fees and fines.
States have specific landlord-tenant laws requiring the return of the security deposit. In some cases, the landlord or management company must send it out within 30 days.
What Happens if My Landlord Doesn't Return My Deposit
So the landlord kept your security deposit, and the deadline for your refund has passed. The next step will be to file a case in small claims court.
The good news is you won't need a lawyer to file a claim. Most states have a maximum limit you can file a protest for. Check your state for the maximum. In many areas, the limit is 10k dollars. This should be more than enough for most renters.
After you have filed the appropriate documents with the state, the landlord will be served. At this point, most of them will send you a check so you will cancel the case.
Tell the Judge the Facts
If the landlord doesn't pay you after they are served, it's time to go to court. When it's your turn, tell the judge what the case is about, and what you want. Explain that the landlord failed to return your security deposit in the amount you are requesting. This won't be the first time the judge has heard a case like yours. He or she will ask you a series of questions. Answer them in a calm voice.
Most of the time, if you win the case, then the landlord will issue you your refund check. If they don't pay, this will require an additional strategy.
Your landlord wants you to keep their place in good condition, and pay your rent on-time. As long as you do so, there shouldn't be any reason why they will withhold your security deposit.
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About the author: The above article on how to get your security deposit back from a landlord was written by Andrew Reichek. Andrew is a real estate broker in Houston, TX. He and his team of agents have been helping hundreds of customers find and secure homes and rentals in Houston and Dallas, TX since 2010.