In most parts, landlords and property owners have to pay security deposit money as a way to show the intent of moving in and taking care of their property. The money you pay as a security deposit can be refundable or non-refundable depending on the lease or sale agreement. For a refundable deposit, the main concern is, can you get a security deposit back? There has been an upsurge in cases between landlords and their tenants regarding paying back the security deposit. However, following the right steps, such as the ones discussed in this article, will help you recover your deposit money without so much hassle.
Security Deposit Basics for Landlords and Tenants
First of all, you should understand that there is no law stipulating that, as a tenant, you must pay a security deposit, but different states allow it. The majority of landlords ask for this payment together with your first month’s rent. This is because it serves as ‘security’ for any damage you may have caused during your stay on the property or in case you leave unexpectedly without paying the rent. In this regard, it is imperative to understand some of the basics of this payment to get a clear glimpse of what it is all about.
Security Deposit’s Due Date
There is no specific due date for the collection of the security deposit. If you are a landlord, it is your responsibility to ensure that the tenant makes this payment before settling on your property. It is one of the conditions of a lease. If the tenant is not willing to pay the security deposit upfront, the landlord has the liberty to cancel the lease agreement and hand it over to one who is willing and in a position to make the payment.
As the property owner, you put yourself at high risk by allowing a tenant to settle into your house without paying the security deposit. For instance, you might be required to incur the cost of acquiring water damage restoration services in case a tenant messes with the water systems, yet they have not paid the security deposit.
Security Deposit Limits
Like with the due date, there are no state regulations on how much a landlord can collect from you as a security deposit. The amount collected largely depends on where the property is located. In some areas, you will find that landlords collect two month’s rent as the security deposit. In others, the limit stretches to three months’ rent. It is, however, advisable to dig deeper into the local ordinances because there may be limits on security deposits in your city or county of residence.
Additionally, landlords are advised to remain vigilant about the market where their properties are. If other landlords in your area are charging one-month rent as the security deposit, you will most likely lose many prospective clients if you charge anything higher than that. Having vacancies on your property can cost you more than the losses you would have incurred by adhering to the lower security deposits asked for in your market.
In most states, there is no regulation when it comes to where landlords can hold security deposits. However, others recommend keeping them in accounts that bear interest. As a tenant, you are entitled to a receipt after paying your deposit. This is a perfect way to prevent any disagreements that may arise in the future.
You must be wondering, ‘can you get a security deposit back after your lease has ended.’ There is a duration allowed for landlords to pay back your deposit or state reasons why they cannot refund you. In some places, this duration is 15 days, while in others, it could go for an entire month. As a former tenant, the property owner should give you back your deposit money or have clearly written reasons why the money cannot be returned.
Keeping the Deposits
Landlords take security deposits as insurance in case their tenants break the lease agreement. It also covers any expenses associated with the damage done by the tenant during their stay. For instance, security money can be used for AC repairs or perhaps even for sewage restoration. Another common use for security money is replacing bathroom countertops. The landlord can decide to hold your deposit for various reasons, including unpaid rent and bills, damage to the house, failure to restore, replace, or return tenants’ property, among others. Sometimes, these reasons only allow the landlord to deduct a certain amount from the deposit and give you back the rest.
How Do You Get Your Security Deposit Back?
The most disturbing issue for many tenants is, ‘can you get a security deposit back?’ The answer depends on how you have lived and taken care of the property during your lease period. Suppose you have not caused any damage to the unit, and you do not have any unpaid bills. In that case, you are in a better position to receive all your refundable security deposit once the lease period is over. That can be a relief, considering the financial stress that most tenants have when moving out. Here are eight of the best tips to help you answer the question ‘can you get a security deposit back?’
Notify the Landlord about Moving Out
One of the most common mistakes that many tenants make is failing to give proper notice to their landlords before the time comes for moving out. Do not do that if you want to receive your money at the end of the lease agreement. Although the rules for such a notice vary from place to place, generally, you are supposed to inform your landlord one month before you start moving boxes. If you don’t notify the landlord early enough, you may be forced to pay rent for one more month, consequently forcing you to wait for longer to get back your deposit money.
Ask for Your Deposit
An assumption is a bad thing when it comes to getting your security deposit back. Can you get a security deposit back? Yes, if only you ask for it. The laws surrounding landlords and tenants give you the right to a deposit refund only when you ask for it. However, some landlords take advantage and get away with deposits from tenants who fail or forget to ask for them. In some states, landlords are allowed a 30-day period to refund your deposit. The period might be less in other states. If you have not heard from your former landlord within 30 days, it is recommendable to follow up through letters, emails, and even phone calls.
Understand Your Lease
The lease agreement is between you and the landlord. You must play your part to grab all the details about the agreement, as this gives you the bargaining power to get your deposit back. Do you want to do some work on the unit you are living in? Then, you should know whether the expenses will be deducted from your security deposit or not. Maybe you are thinking of installing new kitchen cabinets. Talk to your landlord and discuss how the expenses will be covered. Additionally, the lease agreement will most probably give you clear information on your obligation to the property and what the landlord considers ‘normal wear and tear.’ The agreement should also dictate how many days you have to present a notice to the landlord before moving out.
Repair Any Damages on the Unit
Can you get a security deposit back? It is possible to get it back if you indulge in repairing any damage you may have caused on the property. If you, or your visitors, messed with the sewer lines, it is time to contact professionals in the sewage restoration field or procure an emergency plumbing service. It is best to do these repairs in your last month of staying on the property. Some repairs can be DIY projects, while others need professional intervention, for instance, antique rug restoration. Patching the holes in the wall and applying a coat of paint are some of the repairs you can do yourself. However, if the walls are just dirty, you can just wash them instead of painting them.
Understand Your Rights
Many tenants fail to get their security deposit back because they have no clue about their rights. If you want your security money back, you must understand that it is your right to have it unless the landlord provides clear evidence to hold on to it. However, some renters just let it slide, believing that they are somehow in the wrong. There are clear laws in different states and cities that dictate why your landlord can or cannot hold on to your deposit and how much they can deduct. For instance, if the electricity in the unit was faulty and the landlord procured wiring repair services on your behalf, the law has some strict regulations on how much they can deduct from your security deposit. As a renter, it is your responsibility to understand such laws, not to get conned.
Give the Landlord a Forwarding Address
Can you get a security deposit back? Yes, if the landlord has the right address, they can send a refund. Your landlord may be willing to refund you, but it might be hard for them to send you the money if you did not leave a forwarding address before moving out. This is because, in most cases, these refunds are made via check and not direct deposit. Fortunately, if you forgot to leave the address, you can fix that by simply emailing or calling your former landlord to inform them where you would like your refund to be sent.
Can you get a security deposit back? Yes, if you don’t leave anything behind, that may cost the landlord to move or dispose of. Most lease agreements have a section reminding you of such an instance. If there is some furniture that you will not require in your new residence, it is advisable to dispose of or sell it. However, if you just leave behind a few boxes, your former landlord may dispose of them for you or call you to come to pick them up. The thumb rule here is that if it is going to cost the landlord something to move whatever you leave behind, the expenses will most likely be covered by part or all of your security deposit.
Return the Keys
If you want the answer to ‘can you get a security deposit back?’, then don’t look too far. It is possible to have your security deposit deducted because you did not return or you misplaced a certain set of keys that were given to you. This could include gate keys, mailbox keys, and house keys. Misplacing or moving out with any of these keys means that it will cost the landlord money to make a new set of keys or locks for the next tenant. The most probable thing is that the landlord will not pay for such expenses from their pocket – they will run to your deposit and deduct the right amount. The best way to go about this is by liaising with the landlord and setting up a time and place where you will drop off any keys you might have carried with you.
The issue of getting the deposit money back from landlords has been confusing many renters, who always ask, ‘can you get a security deposit back?’ This article has dived deep into this issue to try and answer that question for you. Although there is no specific law stipulating that landlords should ask for a deposit from tenants, they still ask for it. Landlords regard security deposits as funds that can be used to cover expenses resulting from damage to their property, for instance, building repair. Additionally, such money covers any lost items by the tenants and unsettled rent and bills. So, can you get a security deposit back? Yes, and eight of the best tips have been clearly explained above. The most important of them all is to understand your lease agreement so that you know what you are getting yourself into.