Security Deposits

A security deposit is money that the landlord retains from the tenant in case the tenant damages the premises or fails to make his or her rent payment during the term of the lease. It is paid prior to the move in date and is refunded back to the tenant once the lease expires. The tenant has a right to receive a refund for his or her security deposit at the expiration date of the lease as long as all of his or her rent has been paid in full and the there are no damages to the premises (ordinary wear and tear does not count). The maximum amount of a tenant’s security deposit depends on the laws set by the state or municipality. Generally, it should not exceed the amount of two month’s rent.

It is not uncommon to find that a receipt for the security deposit is found within the lease agreement. Nonetheless, tenants should make sure to get a receipt for the deposit in writing from their landlord. The receipt should state the amount that the tenant has paid for the deposit as well as a written list of all the existing damages of the premises. It is a good idea to request a written list of damages at least a couple of weeks before moving into the premises in order to avoid complications in the future. You wouldn’t want your landlord asking you to pay for damages to the premises that were already there before you moved even in. Furthermore, many states require landlords to provide a detailed list of preexisting damages of the premises before the tenant moves in. If the tenant believes that the landlord is unjustly withholding the security deposit after the expiration date of the lease, then he or she has the option of taking the landlord to a small claims court. There are state and municipal laws that regulate the terms of a lease between the landlord and tenant, so it is important for you to check the appropriate laws for your area.

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