What About My Security Deposit?

The largest number of tenant complaints made to Students' Legal Assistance involve the failure of landlords to return security deposits. What follows is general information. Please contact Students' Legal Assistance for advice and counsel regarding your situation.


Tenant Responsibilities

  1. Document the condition of the premises upon move-in. Keep a copy and give the landlord a copy.  Take pictures of pre-existing damage. For a usable Room Condition Report, please see Brochures and Forms.
  2. Abide by the terms of the lease.
  3. Only admit responsible guests to your apartment. You will be held responsible for damages caused by guests.
  4. Promptly inform the landlord of any needed repairs during the tenancy.  Keep a record of your requests.
  5. Leave the premises in as good condition as you received it less normal wear and tear.
  6. Give a forwarding address for the return of the security deposit.
  7. Pay for legitimate damages to the premises. 

Landlord Responsibilities

  1. Return the security deposit in full or provide a written itemization of damages within 30 days of the end of the lease.
  2. Charge only for damages above normal wear and tear.
  3. Provide estimated or actual cost for repairing or replacing each item on the statement.
  4. Attach paid receipts or copies to statement for purchased materials (includes doors, screens, fixtures, etc.) and contracted for services.
  5. If estimated cost is given, provide paid receipts within 30 days of the date the itemization of damages was given. 

Tips to Tenants

  1. Determine the landlord's reputation regarding the return of security deposits.
  2. Do not sign a lease where you agree to pay automatic charges such as for carpet cleaning.
  3. Do not agree to waive the landlord’s duty to provide you a written itemization of damages.
  4. Document condition of apartment on move-out by taking pictures and bringing in persons who could act as witnesses.
  5. Critically review the written damage/itemization statement.
  6. Refer to the Move-In Condition Report.
  7. Check to see if the painting and other repairs were actually done.
  8. Agree to pay only for the actual cost for damages. 

Remedies for Landlord's Failure to Return Security Deposit

If a court finds that the landlord refused to supply an itemized statement or supplied the statement in bad faith AND failed or refused to return the security deposit due within 45 days, the landlord is subject to a statutory penalty of equal to the security deposit, plus court costs and attorney fees.