How to Get Your Security Deposit From a Landlord

By Andrew Lu on July 16, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When you move into an apartment, you're probably going to be asked to put down a security deposit.

The security deposit amount is oftentimes the same as one month's rent and the landlord will hold onto it until your lease ends.

Ideally, when you move out, you'll get your full security deposit back. Practically speaking, you'll probably only get a fraction of your deposit back. So how do you get your security deposit back after renting?

Security deposits are governed by state law. In just about every state, landlords are required to return your security back within a set number of days (most states set the deadline at 30 days after moving out).

In addition to when you get your deposit back, most states also govern how much you will get back. Generally, the landlord can make deductions from your security deposit for unpaid rent and any reasonable amount necessary to repair damage caused by you. Pet damage can also be deducted. However, you are not expected to have to pay for reasonable wear and tear associated with normal use.

If a landlord does make deductions from your security deposit, the landlord must typically provide to you:

  • a detailed list of damages listing their nature and extent, and the repairs required to remedy them
  • written evidence such as estimates, bills, invoices, or receipts, indicating the actual or estimated cost of these repairs

If the landlord fails to return the security deposit (or balance after lawful deductions) with accrued interest within the prescribed time, or fails to provide you with the itemized list of deductions, you may sue the landlord to get your security deposit back. Many state courts make some provision for easy resolution of security deposit disputes, such as in small claims, conciliation, or landlord/tenant court.

If you are involved in a dispute over a security deposit, talk to a landlord tenant attorney to discover your options to how to get your security deposit back.

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