Can A Landlord Keep Your Security Deposit?


When can my landlord keep my security deposit?
Your landlord can keep your security deposit if:

1. There is damage to the home that was caused by you or your guests.
2. You owe the landlord money for back rent.
3. You move without asking the landlord, in writing, for your deposit back.

How will I know why my landlord is keeping my Security Deposit?
After you move, you must ask the landlord, in writing, to return your deposit. If you do not ask the landlord, in writing, to return your deposit within (6) months from the date you move, he/she can keep your deposit. After you give the landlord a written request for your deposit, the landlord has forty-five (45) days to give you the money. If the landlord chooses to keep your deposit, then he/she must give you a written list of reasons for keeping your money.

What should I do if my landlord is keeping my security deposit because of damage?
The security deposit "secures" your landlord against any damage you might do to your home. You are required to pay for damages that you or your guests have caused intentionally or through carelessness. You are not required to pay for damages caused by normal wear and tear, such as faded paint. Once the landlord gives you a list of the charges and the damage, you should:

1. Carefully review the list. Are there any charges which seem unreasonable?
2. If there are charges that you do not believe are correct, let the landlord know, in writing. (Keep a copy for your records)
3. Try to work out an agreement with the landlord that you both can live with. For example, if it is simply a matter of the home being clean, offer to clean it up.
4. If you reach an agreement, be sure to put it in writing and have your landlord sign it.
5. If you still cannot reach an agreement and you believe that your deposit should have been returned, you may have to take the landlord to small claims court.

What if the damage was there when I moved in?
If the landlord is charging you for damage that was there when you moved in, you must be able to prove it. Some landlords provide a checklist to fill out when you move in so that you can list any damage which is already there. If you completed one of these checklists, look for your copy.

See the video online at>Housing>Landlord/Tenant called "Before You Sign A Lease or Rental Agreement" and the Move-In Checklist.

What should I do if my landlord is keeping my deposit to cover back rent?
Your landlord must give you a list of the charges he/she believes you owe. Once the landlord does this, you should:

1. Carefully review the list. Are the landlord's calculations correct?
2. Check your receipts. Do you have receipts for months he says you owe?
3. If you find that the landlord is incorrect in his calculations, let him know, in writing. (Keep a copy for your records)
4. Try to reach some agreement with the landlord.
5. If you are unable to reach an agreement and the landlord keeps your deposit to cover rent which you believe was already paid, you may have to take him to small claims court.

How will small claims court help me get my deposit back?
Small claims court is a place where people can sue for small amounts of money (under $7,500.00) without a lawyer. You can show the court why the landlord should have returned your deposit, and the landlord will have to show that he has a good reason for not returning it. It is less complex than district court, and it is usually faster than district court. If you want to file a case in small claims court, read this information about Getting Your Security Deposit Back. at>Housing>Landlord/Tenant Problems.

What can I do to keep my landlord from trying to keep my deposit?

  • Before you move in, make a detailed list or take pictures of any damage that was already there.
  • Before you move out, repair any damage that you or your guests caused, such as holes in the walls or flooring.
  • Once you remove your belongings, clean the home thoroughly.
  • If there is a yard, make sure you leave it clean and free of trash.
  • Take pictures of the rental when it is clean and in good condition.
  • Look at the property with your landlord. Find any problems.
  • Together with the landlord, make a list of things that need repair or has the landlord sign a letter stating that there is no damage.
  • If there is damage, work out a plan for repairs with the landlord.
    Put the plan in writing.
  • If you cannot get the landlord to look at the property with you, have a friend look at it with you. Your friend may be able to act as your witness in case your landlord tries to keep your deposit.
  • Give your landlord a written request or letter asking for your security deposit.
    Give the landlord an address where you can get mail after you move.
  • Keep a copy of the letter you send the landlord.
  • Wait forty-five (45) days. If the landlord does not respond in 45 days or you do not agree with the landlord's response, take steps to get your money back.

Remember, every situation is different. This is not intended to be used as specific legal advice.

Last Review and Update: Dec 13, 2016
Back to top