Most Washington, DC landlords require tenants to pay a
security deposit when they move in. In DC a landlord cannot charge you
more than one month's rent as a security deposit, and it can only be
collected once. The landlord must give you, in writing, the terms of your security
deposit. Keep your copy, and be sure to get a receipt.
In the District of Columbia, the
landlord must put your security deposit into an account that earns
passbook value for a year. This interest must be given to you when you
move if you have lived in the unit at least 12 months. Within 45 days
after you move out, the landlord must either return all your security
deposit plus interest or notify you in writing that all or part of the
deposit will be used to cover expenses. The landlord must send you an
itemized list of any repairs or expenses that are taken out of the
security deposit. After the first notification, the landlord must return
the balance of your deposit, if any, within 30 days. If you need the
assistance of an attorney search
for one here .
Specific Instructions For Washington,
Before signing your lease,
inspect the property with the landlord and a witness. Write
down all existing damages. Both you and the landlord should sign and
date the list. You may also want to videotape or take photographs to
document. This list will prevent the landlord from
trying to charge you for these damages when you move out. You may also
use a Walk Through
At least 30 days before you intend to
vacate, you should send a letter to the landlord telling them when
you are leaving. Keep a copy for your files. If you must move
without giving the usual notice, get the landlord to agree in writing
to let you move out early. Otherwise the landlord may keep your
deposit for inadequate notice.
The landlord must inspect your rental
unit within three days before or three days after you move. Notice of
this inspection must be sent to you at least ten days before the
inspection. You have the right to be present at the inspection.
If the landlord does not inspect
before you leave, you should compile your own list of damages. Take
photos and get a friend to act as a witness. If the landlord tries to
keep part of your security deposit, you then should be able to prove
that the damage occurred after you left.
Leave your forwarding address with the
- see Tenant
Preventative Steps to Take to Ensure a Deposit Return
A tenant must meet all of the above conditions to ensure
a refund of the deposit, but meeting those conditions is not all
the tenant should do. The chances of receiving return of the
deposit will be increased if the following suggestions are also
Move-in Inventory Inspection. When you move in your home
or apartment, make a list and take photos of the apartment and
any damage. Typically, you should do a walk through with the
owner or manager prior to moving in. Get them to sign an
acknowledgement of the damage and note what (if anything) will
be done. This will help you when you move out.
Move-Out Notice. A lease may require that the tenant give
the landlord 30 days written notice prior to move-out in order
to get the security deposit back. Even if
the lease does not require it, notify the landlord prior
Move-out Inventory Inspection. When the tenant prepares
to move, the apartment or home should be cleaned and the
landlord asked to appear for a move out inspection. The tenant
should fill out another inventory form, similar to the move-in
inventory. Ideally, you should have a copy of the original move
in form - for both your use and the landlord.
Turn in the Keys. The keys should be turned in on the
exact day the tenant vacates the premises. If the keys are
turned in later, the landlord may be able to charge the tenant
additional rent or other charges under the lease. A tenant's
actual move out date is often considered to be when the keys are
What Can the Landlord Deduct from the Security Deposit?
A landlord cannot legally deduct for normal
wear and tear. This refers to deterioration which
occurs during regular, daily, intended use of the rental unit,
for example nail holes in the walls from pictures or paintings.
Deductions from the Security Deposit
If the landlord makes any deductions from the deposit, a
written, itemized accounting of how much is being charged for
each item must be sent to the tenant. If the landlord fails to
provide such an accounting within xx days after the tenant moves
out, the landlord may forfeit the right to withhold any part of
the deposit. Furthermore, the deductions taken from the deposit
must be for actual damages suffered by the landlord.
How to Dispute Deposit Deductions
If a tenant receives a list of deductions, it is
possible to dispute items on that list. The deductions should be
addressed by the tenant in a letter sent to the landlord. The
demand letter should include a response to each of the
deductions, explaining which charges are being disputed and why.
The tenant should keep a copy of the letter and send the
original by certified mail, return receipt requested.
If the tenant receives a partial refund along with the list of
deductions and wants to dispute some or all of the deductions,
the tenant may want to refrain from cashing the check. If the
tenant must cash the check then the tenant should tell the
landlord in the letter that even though the check has been
cashed, it does not mean the tenant agrees with the amount of