Getting Your Security Deposit Back

Where to Start

The first step is to give your landlord a written notice. This should be a letter on paper asking for your security deposit back. Emails and text messages are not considered written notice. Make a copy of this letter or take a photo with your phone. Email the photo to yourself or keep the copy in a safe place so it does not get lost. 

You have six months to ask for your security deposit back. The clock starts the day your lease ends. After that time, the security deposit becomes the landlord’s money. It is best to ask for the security deposit soon after moving out, but not before moving out. 
You must give the landlord an address to send the security deposit. If you do not want the landlord to have your new address, consider giving the address of a trusted friend or family member. 

The landlord must respond to your request within 45 days. The landlord’s response should either be a payment for your full security deposit or a list of reasons why they are keeping part or all of the security deposit. Your landlord is allowed to inspect the place after you move and make repairs. You are not responsible for problems that existed when you moved in or for normal wear and tear. 

Before moving, take photos of the entire home. Pay special attention to blinds, stove drip pans, sinks, toilets, bath/shower, and kitchen appliances inside and out. Save these photos in two places—consider saving them on your phone and also emailing the photos to yourself. 

If the Landlord Won't Give the Security Deposit Back

If the landlord does not respond to your notice within 45 days, or if the landlord sends you a list of charges that you do not believe you owe, you must try to get your money back another way. The two best ways to get your money back are through mediation or Small Claims Court. 


Mediation is a process where you and the landlord try to work out your disagreement without going to court. A trained, neutral mediator will sit down with you and your landlord and try to help you reach a settlement. Mediation sometimes does not cost very much. If both sides agree to try mediation, it can work. 
To find a court-sponsored mediation program near you call:

Early Settlement: 

Letter to Request Your Security Deposit

Below is a series of letters you may send to your landlord. Included is a letter to request your security deposit back. 

For the security deposit request letter, remember:

  • Keep a photo or copy of the letter
  • Date the letter
  • Provide a mailing address you feel is safe to receive a response. 
  • The landlord must respond in 45 days. 

Filing a Small Claims Court Lawsuit

Starting the Lawsuit

  • Find the name and address for your landlord or company you rented from and are now suing. Careful! The person who took your security deposit may not be the person you should sue. Check your lease for the information you need.
  • Ask the court clerk for a small claims form and fill it out. 
  • Pay the required filing fee with the clerk.
  • Send paperwork to the landlord or company. Certified mail is the best, but make sure you keep your receipt! You can also use a process server or the sheriff, but certified mail the is cheapest. 

At the Hearing

Show the judge the following:

  • A copy of the written request for your security deposit.
  • Receipts or proof that the letter and the small claims form were delivered. This will show that you requested the deposit within 6 months of moving out.
  • Any response from the landlord.
  • Your lease agreement.

The judge will let the landlord explain the reasons for keeping the deposit. If the judge decides in your favor, they will write an order granting you a certain amount of money, including your court costs. The landlord may pay you voluntarily. If not, you must take legal steps to collect the money.  

A lawyer can tell you how to collect your money.

Last Review and Update: Dec 14, 2022
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