What Can a Landlord Deduct From a Security Deposit?

June 3, 2024

So, what can a landlord deduct from a security deposit? Soon after moving into a new apartment, you may forget about the significant security deposit you paid. When it comes time to move out, however, it’s nice to know you’ll be getting a decent check. At the very least, you hope. A landlord can lawfully deduct a variety of things from a security deposit, and it’s helpful to know what they are ahead of time so you can act properly and get a complete refund.

When signing a lease for a new apartment, it’s necessary to read the fine terms thoroughly. Not only should your lease address the laws of your tenancy and what you can expect from your landlord in terms of privacy, safety, and other key issues, but it should also include the terms and conditions of how you’ll get your security deposit back, along with how long your owner has to do it.

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Many of us don’t bother to remember our lease agreements. It may not be very useful to refer to after the fact when you’re getting ready to relocate and you’re wondering if you did anything to merit a security deposit deduction. So, as a fast refresher, here are the six legal deductions a landlord can make from a security deposit, as well as some helpful hints for getting your check back up to full.

What can a landlord deduct from a security deposit?

Renters have privileges, which implies that your landlord can’t just withhold your security deposit on the spur of the moment. They must have a legitimate justification to keep all or part of your deposit, which must be justified by local rental legislation.

While rules and laws differ depending on where you reside, there are six fairly basic deductions that a landlord can make from a security deposit—all of which you should be aware of if you want to get your money back in full.

Unacceptable Messes

When it comes to leaving your flat in the same condition as when you initially moved in, if you leave a major mess behind, you’ll almost certainly lose some of your security deposit to cleaning fees.

This is arguably one of the most typical causes for a security deposit deduction. It’s also challenging to contest after you’ve already departed. Cover your bases by photographing your apartment after you’ve moved out all of your belongings but before you hand back the keys, so you have photographic documentation of the condition of your place on relocation day.

Severe Property Damage

It is expected that you will leave the property in the same condition as when you first arrived. This isn’t to say that natural wear and use isn’t anticipated or allowed, but it does imply that if you move out and leave severe property damage behind, such as broken doors or cabinets, torn carpet, or cracked countertops, you’re likely to be held responsible.

You have a right to a safe and habitable house during your lease, which means you can and should ask your landlord to take care of any major repairs. Expect your security deposit to be reduced if you’ve allowed them to linger—and if you’re to blame for why they’re there in the first place.

Things that were left behind

You shouldn’t have to worry about losing any of your security deposit if you forgot to pack a dish or two. If you leave something significant behinds, such as a couch, mattress, or bed frame, your landlord is likely to deduct the cost of removal from your down payment.

Because moving large objects can be costly, we understand the urge to leave them behind. You’re taking a costly risk if you haven’t cleared it with your landlord first. Call a garbage removal firm instead, or connect with one of the numerous organizations that will pick up your unwanted items for free if the item is in good shape.

Rent that has not been paid

This one shouldn’t come as a huge shock to anyone. If you leave your apartment without paying your rent in full, your landlord can deduct the overdue rent from your security deposit, as well as any fines.

It’s important to remember that while your landlord can remove overdue rent from your security deposit, you can’t use your security deposit to pay your rent. Instead of expecting that your landlord can simply deduct any remaining payments from your deposit in the months leading up to your move out, you should continue to pay your rent as usual.

Utility bills that have not been paid

A landlord can use your security deposit to cover the cost of unpaid utilities in the same way that they can use it to cover the cost of overdue rent, as long as the landlord is the one to whom you regularly pay your utility check.

As a general guideline, pay any outstanding bills to your landlord prior to moving out so that you don’t have to worry about them being deducted from your security deposit.

Breaking lease early

Breaking a lease early can result in a number of negative consequences, including the loss of your security deposit. If you’re intending to vacate your apartment before the end of your lease term, check your lease to see what penalties you’ll face so you’re not caught off guard later. Speak with your landlord about other options, such as finding a subtenant to cover the balance of your lease.