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How to Get Your Security Deposit Back From Your Landlord

Security deposits are usually required when leasing apartments. Although it's uncommon for a landlord or an apartment manager to waive this fee, renters that have unblemished credit may be able to rent a property without having to pay this additional fee. 

If you have paid a security deposit fee upon signing your apartment lease, here are some steps you can take to ensure you will get reimbursed.

What is a Security Deposit

According to FindLaw, a security deposit is money paid to the landlord by the lessee that makes sure that they will take responsibility for paying the lease and will hold that lessee for any damages that incur on the property.

Don't confuse the security deposit with the last month's rent. Many times, renters believe they do not have to pay the last month's rent because that is what the security deposit is for. This is incorrect. 

Usually, the security deposit can be equal to one month's rent, though in some cases, it can be less. The guidelines around what purpose security deposits serve and what the amount is can vary per state. It’s important to acquaint yourself with your state’s landlord/tenant laws.

If your rent is raised after your lease expires, the landlord can and usually request that you also pay the additional amount towards the security deposit. For instance, if your security deposit is $1000 and your new lease for your apartment in Downtown Houston increases to $1100, you will be expected to write a check for an additional $100.

What The Security Deposit can Be Used for

Security deposits can be used to cover a number of things. It’s up to your landlord to decide what to apply the deposit towards, but there are rules in each state that should be followed. 

After you turn in your keys, the management company or owner will conduct an apartment walk-through. This is where they will start to assess if there are any damages that you may have caused to the property. 

Typically they are only allowed to penalize you for items that fall outside the of normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear is regular damage that occurs to a property over time. It is not caused by the tenant’s neglect or damage. 

Examples of Normal Wear and Tear:

  • Dirty blinds
  • Worn doorknobs or small holes in the wall caused by the impact of the doors opening and closing and making contact with the walls
  • Faded paint 
  • Light stains on carpeting or light scratches in the wood flooring
  • Small micro-tears in the apartment walls that are very hard to see

Examples of items that are the result of tenant damage or neglect, whether intentional or unintentional:

  • Punch holes in the walls
  • Chipped tile in the bathrooms 
  • Cracked windows or mirrors
  • Heavy stains in carpeting
  • Urine stains left by pets
  • Heavy scratches in wood floors

The best case scenario is that there aren’t any damages. If you’ve done your due diligence and kept the property in tiptop shape, you should get a full refund!

Conducting a Walk Through

Nearly all managers and landlords will conduct a final walk-through of the apartment with you before you move-out. This is the time where they can tell you what you may be liable for. If damages are found, you may want to consider repairing the damages in question. 

If certain items are in need of repair, don't expect your landlord to give you an exact dollar amount. However, you may be able to receive an estimate. 

Consider making the repairs on your own if possible. Paying a professional out of your own pocket is not the best idea. Unless you can guarantee that it will be done at a much cheaper rate than what you would pay to cover the damages. If there are substantial damages, you may end up forfeiting the security deposit altogether. In some cases, you may even end up paying additional fees to cover repairs.

You Moved Out, Now What?

After you drop off the keys, you have relinquished possession of the apartment. The landlord will have a certain amount of days to refund your security deposit. Again, you will want to check your lease agreement, and/or the landlord/tenant laws in your state. In Texas, the landlord must return the amount within 30 days. If monies were subtracted from the amount owed to you, an itemized list must be provided. 

Always leave a forwarding address so that he or she can mail you a check, or provide them with your email address if you prefer an e-transfer. If you forget to provide the proper information, the landlord will not be liable. 

It’s important to note that if you’re behind on rent, you likely won't receive your reimbursement especially if the amount you owe exceeds the security deposit. 

To recap, follow these 3 simple steps if you want to get your security deposit back: 

  • Don't damage the property
  • Pay your rent on time
  • Make sure to leave a forwarding address

Happy renting!

*Contributions are solely guest opinions and don’t reflect the opinions of or are endorsed by WYL, our staff, clients or other interested parties.