To move into an apartment, you often must give your landlord a security deposit. After all, the landlord feels safer renting out property if he or she has money ready to deal with extensive damage.
However, tenants do not always get their security deposits back. Here is a look at some reasons why:
Sometimes, landlords do not give security deposits back due to tenant behaviors such as not paying the final month’s rent (wanting to use the security deposit in lieu of that instead) or giving insufficient move-out notice as the lease requires. The landlord also might not return the deposit due to severe damage to the property.
No matter the case, though, the landlord is legally obligated to list the reasons why and to return the deposit or any leftover money within 30 days of the tenant moving out.
Disagreements on “normal wear and tear”
A landlord should not withhold a security deposit due to normal wear and tear. Basically, this is damage that would have happened no matter who was living in the apartment. For example, worn carpeting (assuming it did not come from constant, large parties) is normal wear and tear, while stained carpeting is generally not. Damage caused by storms and the like to the interior of the apartment generally does not fall under normal wear and tear.
However, there is enough gray area in “normal wear and tear” for it to come up often in landlord-tenant disputes. Tenants can protect themselves by taking pictures of the apartment before move in and right before move out. They should also ask their landlord to go through the apartment with them before they move out so they can discuss any possible issues of contention while the tenant is still around.
Shady business practices
And then there are some landlords who simply withhold security deposits and count on tenants not noticing or not caring enough to press the matter. These landlords are acting unethically, and this, unfortunately, happens more often than it should.