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What to do if Landlord won’t Give Back Security Deposit?

You can directly ask the landlord for a security deposit refund. If they didn’t give back the deposit then you can take legal action according to the tenants’ rights.

In February 2023, a tenant in New York City won a $10,000 judgment against her landlord after he refused to return her security deposit. The tenant had left the apartment in good condition, but the landlord claimed that she had caused damage to the walls and carpet. The tenant disputed the claim, and the judge ruled in her favor. 

So you do not need to worry if you behave as a good tenant with the property as well as paying bills, rent, and fees. Read below to know details about why and in which situation the landlord may cut your deposit, also know your rights, and what you need to do to get back a full security deposit return.

Some steps to take if landlord doesn't give deposit back in case a person is confused

Now you can predict how horrible the situation is! But if you maintain all the terms and conditions of the agreement, then you don’t need to worry about anything. There are several legal actions available to protect you from harassment.

There are some options you can try if you do not get your security deposit not returned-

1. Know your rights as a Tenant

Rental rights vary from state to state. But the main gist is the same for all. If you follow the terms and conditions, as well as pay the bills, rent, taxes, and fees on time, then there’s no reason left to cut your deposit.

Again if you don’t damage or spoil any property of the apartment, and leave it exactly in the same condition when you move in. Then there is no valid reason to cut your deposit. 

But after all this, if the landlord cuts your deposit with a lame excuse or delays your security deposit refund. At that time, you can get the help of local authorities as well you can get your deposit back and give the landlord a penalty.

2. Check your state’s laws

Laws may vary from state to state. But it helps to get back the security deposit. If you don’t break a lease, pay the bills, rent, and fees on time, and keep the property safe and sound, the landlord doesn’t want to refund your deposit.

Then you can give a legal notice to the landlord with sufficient proof, file a case against them to get them a small claim court, and the authority will give them a certain period, generally 30-60 days to back your security deposit. If the landlord still doesn’t obey the decision, they need to return the deposit with interest too.

3. Send a written demand letter to your landlord

Communicate with the landlord. Write a letter asking for your deposit back and give them minimum flexibility to cut the deposit, if there required any repairs. There is no normal wear and tear.

Normally the landlord deposit return time is the day you are moving to the next 30 days, so if the time extends then you can mention the legal step you are going to take. Don’t forget to mention the law by which you’re going to take the legal step. But remember that your tone of the letter should be polite, stop being rude.

4. File a complaint with your state’s landlord-tenant board

It’s also known as a file in small claims court. Here there is no need to hire an attorney. You can deal with the situation with your evidence and witnesses along with the photos, and videos. The demand letter is required here and the necessary documents including payment receipts are going to be used here.

If your points are strong enough to prove your allegation, then the landlord may get the penalty to the security deposit refunded as soon as possible.

5. Hire an attorney

‌If you don’t want to deal with the situation by yourself and want to handle it with strong laws and regulations, then you can hire an attorney. They’ll represent all the evidence and bring up all the essential points. The good news is if you win the case, then the landlord needs to pay the attorney fee.

When can a landlord legally keep a tenant’s security deposit?

Landlords have the right to keep your security deposit if you don’t behave as a good tenant.

It can include-

  • If you break the lease, it means you leave the place too early before your lease expires. Then the landlord won’t give the deposit back or cut it.

    Suppose your lease expires on 28 February 2023, but you left the apartment on 31 December 2022, then the landlord has the right to cut the amount from 1 January 2023-28 February 2023.
  • If you leave the place with unpaid bills and rent then the landlord can keep the amount from your security deposit here including apartment rent, taxes, management fees, and many more.
  • You leave a big hole in the wall, spoil the carpet, leave scars on the wooden floor, break the handles of the bathroom, and kitchen cabinet, break the glass of the windows, damage the door lock, dirty grout, and many more. In those situations, the landlord isn’t bound to give you the security deposit return.
  • If you leave the place messy and there requires cleaning then the landlord can cut the deposit. Where cleaning ceiling fans ($25), washing light fixtures ($15), floor cleaning ($60), and many more may cost that. And those amounts will be cut from the security deposit.
  • Repairing and replacing belongings are also taken from your deposit. Here may include the main cost as well the labor cost.

    Such as, if they require to repair a kitchen cabinet, then it may cost $150, and the labor cost may be $25-50 per day. So, the amount of $200 will be minus the security deposit.
  • Your unpaid utilities will be cut from your deposit. It includes bills of gas, water, and cable.

What is Considered “Normal Wear and Tear”?

For normal wear and tear, you don’t need to pay from your deposit. Even the landlord won’t have a right to keep the deposit for it. Here includes-

  • Defecting on furniture or carpet.
  • Tiny holes in the ceiling or walls.
  • Paint that has chips or cracks.
  • Appliances with scratches.
  • Fading wallpaper, carpet or paint.
  • Scuffs on tiles and hardwood floors.
  • Grout that is soiled or loose around floor tiles.
  • Door handle scuffs on the walls.
  • The damp door that sticks.
  • Closet doors that slide stuck.
  • Bathroom tile grouting losses and many more.

Most common deductions that landlords make from security deposits

‌Common deductions include repairing, replacing, and cleaning that the landlords make from security deposits. But try to have a flexible deal between you and the landlord to reduce the amount as much as possible. As the cost may vary. 

Repairing includes kitchen cabinets, doors, doors of the bedrooms, windows, and many more. That may cost $150-$300 depending on the condition of the staff. And the labor cost is $25 – $50 for general work and for some major labor costs $75-$150 per day. These may be cut from your deposit.

Replacing cost will be more than repairing. Try to use the staff that they don’t need to replace. But if it is needed then the cost may vary from $40-$250 from replacing broken windows, and doors to replacing exterior doors. 

Cleaning includes general cleaning where carpet, floor, and ceiling fan cleaning are included, room cleaning, kitchen cleaning, bathroom cleaning, yard cleaning, and many more. Additionally, the pricing may vary from $20-$150 depending on the type. And these costs will be paid from your security deposit.

How to Dispute a Landlord’s Security Deposit Deductions

‌Here are some tips that may help you to dispute a landlord’s security deposit dedication. It includes-

  1. Check the laws in your state.
  2. Wait for the estimated time of refund 30 days.
  3. Understand the lease thoroughly.
  4. Ask for a detailed breakdown of the deductions.
  5. Examine the list of items in detail.
  6. Explain your situation in writing to your landlord.
  7. Make an effort to come to a deal with your landlord.
  8. Submit a letter to the deposit protection program.
  9. Take legal action (if needed).
  10. Keep accurate records.
  11. Be kind and polite.

Related Queries

How much can the landlord take from the deposit for cleaning?

It depends on the condition of the apartment and how much the landlord takes from the deposit for cleaning.

Here cleaning involves yard cleaning, bedroom cleaning, kitchen cleaning, ceiling cleaning, yard cleaning, and many more. Again there are some general cleaning required such as carpet, window, and bathtub cleaning. It depends on which condition you leave the place.

Usually, general cleaning charges $15-$150, but other cleaning may extend up to $250.

Can a landlord charge more than the security deposit for cleaning and damages?

No, a landlord can’t charge more than the security deposit for cleaning and damages.

The landlord may keep the security deposit to cover the cost of any cleaning or repairs required to restore the property to its pre-tenant state. The landlord may be entitled to sue the tenant for the difference if the cost of cleaning and repairs is greater than the security deposit.

The landlord can’t just hold the security deposit and then demand more payment. But here you need to make sure that you didn’t leave the place in such a worst condition.

Does a landlord have to provide receipts for security deposit deductions?

Of course, a landlord has to provide receipts for security deposit deductions.

You gave the deposit, so you have the right to know where the landlord cut the deposit. Leave the place with sufficient evidence including pictures and videos. It can be possible that the landlord may charge extra or charge something that you didn’t do. So, receipts can play the role of evidence that they keep the deposit.

Can a landlord keep your security deposit if you break the lease?

Yes, a landlord can keep your security deposit if you break the lease.

If you break the lease, it means you leave the place too early before your lease expires. Then the landlord won’t give the deposit back or cut it. As it’s kind of unfair to the landlord because you break the lease. So, the landlord has the right to keep it or cut a certain amount from the deposit.

Can the landlord keep a security deposit for painting?

No, a landlord can’t keep a security deposit for painting until it limits normal wear and tear.

Landlord won’t charge you if the holes are tiny, small marks on the wall or floor. But if the damage is huge, then the landlord will charge you. As it crosses the boundary of normal wear and tear. It includes a big hole or dark mark on the wall, furniture, or floor for which painting is necessary. In that case, it’s fair enough to cut the cost from your deposit.

Can my landlord keep my deposit if I leave early?

Yes, your landlord can keep your deposit if you leave early until you don’t have a valid reason.

Even if you end your lease early, if you have a good cause, you might be able to receive your security deposit returned. On the other hand, the landlord might be able to keep your security deposit if you don’t have a good excuse.

However, after a reasonable period following your departure, the landlord still gives your deposit back after the legal expiration of the lease.

The security deposit gives the landlord a guarantee of their property, so why do you worry about getting it back? Here we know how you can overcome this uncertainty. Moreover, if you follow these tips, your landlord will not be able to keep any security deposit.

Brandon Pollard

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