Security Deposit Refund
Return of Security Deposits

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RETURN OF YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT

In almost EVERY STATE, the landlord is required to return your security deposit in a TIMELY FASHION. IT IS DEFINED NUMEROUS WAYS.

STEPS TO TAKE TO GET A RETURN OF YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT 

MOVE-IN INSPECTION. When you move in your home or apartment, make a list and take photos of the apartment and any damages. Typically, you should do a walk through with the owner or manager prior to moving in. Have them sign an acknowledgement of the damage and note what (if anything) will be done. This will help you when you move out.  

- USE OUR FREE MOVE IN / OUT CHECKLIST

MOVE-OUT NOTICE. A lease may require that the tenant give the landlord 30 days OR MORE 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 to moving

ALSO REFER TO THE FOLLOWING ON RENTLAW.com

MOVE-OUT 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.

- USE OUR FREE MOVE IN / OUT CHECKLIST

RETURN 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 may be considered to be when the keys are turned in or the end of the lease - whichever is later!

SECURITY DEPOSIT DEDUCTIONS

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.
 -  See our guide to Normal Wear and Tear.

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 30 days* (TIME VARIES BY STATE) 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.

DISPUTING SECURITY 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 the check.

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