Leases Security Deposit Law and Legal Definition

The security deposit consists of any money which the landlord holds on behalf of the tenant to protect himself from unpaid rent or damage to the apartment. State laws, which vary by state, govern security deposits.The tenant may not defeat the purpose of the deposit by using it as the last month's rent. All security deposits are refundable. The landlord should inform the tenant in advance about the conditions under which he or she will refund your deposit.

The landlord can't automatically take the deposit because the tenant breaches the lease. The landlord can only take compensation for his damages. A tenant should always get a receipt for the deposit, although it can be written into the lease.

Upon the vacating of the premises for termination of the lease, if the landlord does not intend to impose a claim on the security deposit, the landlord typically has a defined time period to return the security deposit together with interest if otherwise required, or the landlord shall have a certain period to give the tenant written notice by certified mail to the tenant's last known mailing address of his or her intention to impose a claim on the deposit and the reason for imposing the claim. State law specifies how the landlord may keep the tenant's deposit money. If he or she puts it in an interest-bearing account, then he or she usually must pay the tenant interest.

A tenant should ask to accompany the landlord when he or she inspects your apartment's condition upon moving in and moving out. The most common problem in recovering a security deposit is proving the condition upon moving out in comparison with moving in. Therefore, it is advisable to take photos and have witnesses who are not tenants examine the apartment and sign statements about its condition.

Landlords may use security deposits to:

  • To cover unpaid rent through the date on which a tenancy terminated.
  • To repair damage to the unit other than "ordinary wear and tear" (wear and tear that ordinarily occurs with the use of any unit).
  • To replace items originally furnished by the landlord and not returned by the vacating tenant, such as keys, furniture or trash receptacles, if the rental agreement authorizes this deduction from the deposit.
  • To have the unit cleaned, if the unit was not left as clean as when it was rented.

One disadvantage of accepting a security deposit may be the need to create a separate bank account to deposit the money into and, in some cases, to collect interest on the deposit, which must be included when returning the security deposit to the tenant.

The following is an example of a state law governing security deposits:

"Any security deposit in excess of fifty dollars or one month's periodic rent, whichever is greater, shall bear interest on the excess at the rate of five per cent per annum if the tenant remains in possession of the premises for six months or more, and shall be computed and paid annually by the landlord to the tenant.

(B) Upon termination of the rental agreement any property or money held by the landlord as a security deposit may be applied to the payment of past due rent and to the payment of the amount of damages that the landlord has suffered by reason of the tenant's noncompliance with section 5321.05 of the Revised Code or the rental agreement. Any deduction from the security deposit shall be itemized and identified by the landlord in a written notice delivered to the tenant together with the amount due, within thirty days after termination of the rental agreement and delivery of possession. The tenant shall provide the landlord in writing with a forwarding address or new address to which the written notice and amount due from the landlord may be sent. If the tenant fails to provide the landlord with the forwarding or new address as required, the tenant shall not be entitled to damages or attorneys fees under division (C) of this section.

(C) If the landlord fails to comply with division (B) of this section, the tenant may recover the property and money due him, together with damages in an amount equal to the amount wrongfully withheld, and reasonable attorneys fees. "