Security Deposits FAQs

Security Deposits: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: When can I get my deposit back?

A: After you move out, your landlord has 21 days to return the security deposit or send an itemized list of each deduction, including all receipts. Click for help writing a letter asking your landlord to return your security deposit.  Your landlord can only charge you for unpaid rent and for fixing damage by you that was not caused by normal wear and tear.

Note: If you paid as part of your security deposit an amount that was designated in the lease or rental agreement as “last month’s rent,” that amount may be used for your last month’s rent. Other forms of security deposit cannot be used to pay your last month’s rent unless the landlord specifically agrees to allow it.

Q: Must I notify the landlord before I move out?

A: Yes. If you pay rent once a month, you have to give your landlord 30 days’ notice in writing. If you do not, the landlord can charge you for the unpaid rent even after you move out. Unless a new tenant pays the rent, you will have to pay for those 30 days. If you pay rent every week, you have to give 7 days’ notice.

Q: What if I think the landlord is keeping too much money for repairs?

A: The landlord has to prove that the repairs are necessary and reasonable and must provide you with receipts for those repairs. It is important that you photograph the condition of the rental unit when you move in and when you move out. This will help to prove that you did not damage the property.

You can also request a walk-through with a checklist that you and the landlord complete when you move in and when you move out. This checklist is used to identify any problems with the unit. You are entitled to receive a copy of the checklist. Click for a checklist form you can print out.

Q: What if I do not get my deposit back after 3 weeks?

A: Write a letter to your landlord if you feel too much was retained from your security deposit and explain why you believe you are entitled to a larger refund.

Keep a copy of the letter for your records.

If the landlord still refuses to pay you your security deposit or returns less than you believe is correct, you can go to mediation to try to resolve your dispute out of court. Click for more information on mediating your security deposit dispute. Or you can sue the landlord in small claims court, which is informal and inexpensive, as long as the total amount sued for is $10,000 or less.

Q: What if I cannot agree with the landlord?

A: You can try a local consumer mediation program to see if you can resolve your dispute out of court. Click for more information on mediating your security deposit dispute.

If you do not want to go to mediation or if mediation did not work, you can sue the landlord in small claims court, which is informal and inexpensive, as long as the total amount sued for is $7,500 or less. You can sue for the security deposit plus twice the amount of the security deposit in damages if you believe the landlord has acted in bad faith when he or she did not return your deposit.

Q: What if the rental property is sold while I still live there?

A:The landlord is supposed to transfer your security deposit to the new owner, and the new owner is supposed to refund all of the deposit, or the portion of the deposit that you are entitled to, when you move out. If the previous owner fails to transfer the security deposit to the new owner, you can sue the prior owner for its return, or for the portion that you are entitled to receive.

Q: What if only 1 roommate is moving out?

A: If the person moving out paid the deposit to another roommate, that roommate has to return the deposit. If the person moving out gave the deposit to the landlord, and the landlord has a separate rental agreement with the roommate moving out, the landlord returns the deposit. If, however, the roommates all signed 1 rental agreement for the unit and only 1 of the roommates moves out, the landlord does not have to return the security deposit until all the roommates have left.

Roommate situations are complicated. It is important that your rental agreement specifies each roommate’s rights and responsibilities.

Q: Where can I find more information about security deposits?
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