What is a security deposit and why do I have to pay it?
A security deposit is money that you give to your landlord or property management company to hold while you live in the home. The security deposit can be used for damages to the property beyond normal wear and tear. Your landlord may also keep the deposit if you fail to pay rent or move out before the lease ends.
A security deposit does not include:
non-refundable pet fees,
application fees, cleaning fees, or
deposits to hold the apartment before you sign the lease
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What are my rights?
If your landlord owns more than 10 rental units OR has a management agent, your landlord must give you a complete list of any existing damages to the unit. You should be given an opportunity to inspect the unit, and check if the list is right. Add any other damages you see to the list. You must sign the list or write on the list the things that you noticed or disagreed with, and then sign. Your landlord cannot charge you for damages that were there before you moved in. Generally, you are not responsible for defects that existed when you moved into the unit. If you signed the move-in inspection list and did not add issues you might be charged. If your landlord did not do the inspection when you moved into the unit, you cannot be charged for damages. Landlords who own fewer than 10 units and who manage the units themselves don’t have to follow these rules.
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What is the landlord’s responsibility?
Landlords who own more than 10 rental units, or who have a management agent, have to place the security deposit in a bank escrow account. Your landlord must tell you where the security deposit is held but doesn't have to give you the account number. Your landlord may also post a bond with the superior court clerk of the county.
The security deposit doesn't have to be in an interest-bearing account and the landlord doesn't have to pay you interest. But, you may agree in the lease that your landlord will give you the interest earned on the security deposit.
What if my landlord does not have a management agent and owns ten or less rental units?
Your landlord does not have to:
maintain an escrow account,
do move-in/move-out inspections and lists, or
send notice within 30 days of your move-out
Your landlord still cannot keep the security deposit without a legal reason.
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How do I get my security deposit back?
You will get your security deposit back after you move out if:
you give your landlord proper notice,
leave things in good shape without owing any rent or damages,
return keys on time, and
provide a new address.
You should take pictures of your home before you move out, in case you need proof.
Your landlord must mail the security deposit to your last known address. If it is returned and your landlord can’t find you after a reasonable effort, the security deposit becomes the landlord's property after 90 days.
If your landlord owns more than 10 rental units OR uses a management agent, they must follow a strict set of rules. Three days after the lease ends and you move out, they must:
You then have five days to:
You should try to be with your landlord during the move out inspection.
If you don’t notify the landlord in writing that you disagree with the list of damages, you can't argue with the landlord if they withhold your security deposit. If you move out without telling your landlord, the landlord only has more time to look at the unit. You also lose your right to inspect the unit. Your landlord has 30 days to return your security deposit or let you know why they are keeping it. Your landlord must tell you the exact reasons why they’re keeping it, a list of any damages, and the estimated amount of the damages.
If you moved out and still owe rent, your landlord can use the security deposit for rent.
If the amount you owe is less than the security deposit, they must give you back the rest with a letter within 30 days.
If your landlord does not return all or some of your deposit, you may have a claim. You could get an amount three times what was withheld, as well as attorney’s fees. You cannot recover anything if you were with the landlord during the inspection and signed the final damages list . But, if you did not inspect the unit after move-out or weren't there for the landlord’s inspection, you can still fight the damage amount.
What happens to my security deposit if my application is rejected?
If your application is rejected, the landlord must return your security deposit within thirty (30) days.
What happens to my security deposit if my rental property has a new owner?
If an apartment complex owner changes, the former owner must transfer the security deposit to the new owner or give it back to you. If the former owner fails to take either of these actions, the tenant has a legal action against the prior owner. A tenant should write to the former owner and the current owner requesting information on the security deposit.
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