A security deposit is an amount of money paid to the landlord to guarantee that there is money to fix any damages caused by a tenant to a rental unit and that at least some rent will be paid in case a tenant is evicted. Generally, a landlord must return the security deposit within 30 days after the end of the lease. However, in some cases, a landlord may be able to deduct money from the security deposit (findlaw). A landlord cannot deduct normal wear and tear from the security deposit. When landlords deduct money from a tenant’s security deposit, they must ensure and track that what they are using the money for is to remedy issues with what would be considered damage or excessive filth left by tenants or face potential legal action by their former tenants. Below is a list of items that would fall under ordinary wear and tear, property damage or excessive filth. For full list see nolo.com.
Tenant Responsibility: Damage or Excessive Filth
Large holes in the wall
Pet urine stains
Water damage caused by hanging plants
Doors broken off hinges
Sticky and grimy cabinets
Water stains caused by leaving a window open
Landlord’s Responsibility: Ordinary Wear & Tear
Minor marks on wall
A few nail holes
Moderately dirty blinds
Warped cabinets that don’t close
If you find that you have the right to deduct from your tenant’s security deposit because your former tenant left excessive damage or filth in your rental unit you need to follow a very specific process in subtracting money from their security deposit. The process starts before your tenants moved into your rental unit. If you do not have pictures of your unit saved in your property management system before your tenants moved in, they can claim the damage was there before they moved in. Furthermore, when you do use the security deposit to fix the damaged items you need to list out the damaged items and the costs or repairing them. Having a property management system that enables you to do apartment based management where you can save specific documents to specific rental units can make this task much easier if you ever need to deduct money from a tenant’s security deposit.
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.