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Security Deposit Law

Rental properties abound in the United States and everyday somewhere someone is looking into leasing something. When a person is preparing to enter into a lease there is usually a security deposit that is included. What is the security deposit for? What does it cover? How does a person recover their security deposit? What are the laws pertaining to security deposits? Below are questions like these and others that pertain to security deposit law that have been answered by the Experts.

What is a security deposit?

A security deposit, which may also be known as a damage deposit, is an amount of money that a person pays for a rented item such as an apartment or house, which is made to ensure the person that is leasing the property that it will be returned in good shape. If the item or place is returned to the owner in good shape with no damage beyond that of normal wear and tear then the security deposit is returned back to the person renting the item or property. If there is damage above and beyond that of normal wear and tear, then the cost of the repairs made for the damage will be deducted from the security deposit or the security deposit may not be returned.

What are items that a landlord may deduct from a security deposit?

A landlord is only able to deduct any cost of repairs for damage caused by the tenant above and beyond normal wear and tear. They are also able to deduct unpaid rent from the security deposit. These are the only things that a landlord may deduct from a security deposit. If the landlord is making a deduction from the security deposit for damage repair, they must provided an itemized list of deductions and the former tenant may request proof of such repairs.

What venue does a tenant have when landlord refuses to return security deposit?

A landlord must give notice to the tenant that the security deposit is being held and an itemized list of how the security deposit was spent. If the tenant disputes the claims of how and why the security deposit was spent, they may file a suit in small claims court against the landlord to recover the funds that are in question. The renter will need to be able to prove that the reasoning for holding the security deposit is not valid. Such as landlord is stating payment for damages accrued from tenant, tenant must prove that damages did not occur while they were tenants.

Can a landlord withhold a security deposit if a person pays the deposit sight unseen and then upon seeing decides they do not want to rent the property?

Even if a security deposit has been paid, there is no contract, until an accord and satisfaction has been reached on the lease. That being said there can be no such accord and satisfaction until the potential tenant has viewed the property and had agreed upon the terms of the lease and signed it. However a landlord is entitled to withhold a small application fee if the potential tenant does not sign the lease. If the landlord is unwilling to return the security deposit voluntarily, the renter may file a claim in small claims court against the landlord.

In the state of Florida what rights does a landlord have to keep the security deposit?

In the state of Florida a landlord has a right to keep a renter’s security deposit if the property has sustained damage above and beyond the normal wear and tear during the time the property was leased, and also if the renter has abandoned the property. The landlord must also give 30 days’ notice to the renter of their intention to keep the security deposit. The landlord must them give the former renter an itemized list of how the security deposit was used, any amount that is left over after the subtraction of costs must then be returned to the former renter. The landlord is able to hold the security deposit for 30 more days after the notification was made that the security deposit was being held.

People who have never rented property before and even those who have may not understand the purpose or need for security deposits. Let alone what their rights are when it comes to receiving their security deposit back when the end of the lease comes or when they move on. Each lease may be different in the way that is worded and some may have additional deposits, such as for pets, which may be confusing and hard to understand. If a person is unsure of how to retain their security deposit or have it returned to them they should seek the opinion of an Expert.

Ask a Real Estate Lawyer

Tina
Tina, Lawyer
Category: General
Satisfied Customers: 5366
Experience:  17 years of legal experience including real estate law.
4460311
Type Your Real Estate Law Question Here...
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Real Estate Lawyers are online & ready to help you now

Tina
Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 4813
16 years of legal experience including real estate law.
Law Pro
Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 6227
20 years extensive experience in real estate law, foreclosure, finance, and landlord tenant law.
Barrister
Lawyer
Satisfied Customers: 4966
13 years real estate, Realtor. Landlord 24+ years

Recent Security Deposit Questions

  • Hello, we paid a security deposit of $5000 on a home that

    Hello,
    we paid a security deposit of $5000 on a home that the rent is 3400.00 per month 5 years ago. We are preparing to move as the owners daughter is raising the rent by $300 per month in January 2015.
    Can we not pay the last months rent and just have them take it out of the security deposit? We have out about $2000 in improvements in the home over the last 5 years?
  • Hi, I live in park slope brooklyn with my daughter and wife. our

    Hi, I live in park slope brooklyn with my daughter and wife.
    our lease ends the end of this month.
    The landlord(management company) still has half a month rent that I overpaid and one month security deposit.
    I asked for the money that I overpaid back when I found out I paid to much but I was told that the person who could authorize that was out of the country and I had to wait until next month(after I would have left) Then I asked if I could stay two extra weeks as it would work better for me.
    I was told it was ok but they want a full month rent only for the two weeks.
    I agreed and said they could use the half a month that I already paid and half a month security deposit.
    They told me that they need the extra half month as they have to keep one full month security deposit.
    I didn't agree to the terms but did tell them I would stay the extra weeks.
    I do not feel comfortable giving them more money before I get my deposit back.
    Can I tell them I will put the money in an escrow account until I get my deposit back?
    They can keep the deposit for three months according to the lease contract.
    Could they take any legal action against me if I stay the two extra weeks but do not pay the extra money they want?
  • Hello, I have been renting a room in a house for over a year

    Hello, I have been renting a room in a house for over a year now. I signed a lease/house rules agreement, pay monthly rent and paid a first, last month and security deposit.
    Recently I discovered that the landlord/roommate had cameras in the house, and recently installed more on the common areas of the house. After he was aware of my knowledge of the cameras he wrote me a 30 day notice to leave.
    Leaving is something I do want to do. However I need some more time to find a new place, specially at this time of the year, I thought that after a year in CA I had 60 days to do so?
    And also wanted to know if I have some right to sue him for invasion of privacy. He has been recording me since I came here!
    Thank you for your assistance,
    Claudia
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