5 Reasons You’re Not Getting Your Security Deposit Back

AAA Print

When you sign a lease or rental agreement, you also pay a security deposit to the landlord. This security deposit is kept by the landlord to pay for any cleaning or repairs that need to be done after you move out. Here are five reasons why a landlord will keep your security deposit.

Remember, these aren't the only reasons you may not be getting your deposit, but they are some of the easiest to prevent. 

Failing to Comply with the Lease

If you don’t read the lease, you won’t know when you’re violating it. To avoid potential problems with a landlord, do the following before you move in:

  • Read the lease or rental agreement carefully before you sign.
  • Know your renters rights and the local housing laws.
  • Do a walk-through of the apartment and document any chipped paint, scratched countertops and all other damage. Even if the damage existed before you moved in, you’ll need to prove it or you may be held liable.
  • Do a walk-through when you move out and document the condition of the apartment.


Bad Housekeeping Habits

A sure way of not getting your deposit back is to leave a dirty apartment. To get back the entire deposit:

  • Keep a clean and odor-free home during the entire time you live in the apartment.
  • Care for the apartment like it was your own.
  • Do a thorough cleaning after you have moved out all of your belongings. Wash floors, walls and cupboards. Remove fingerprints from light switches and door knobs. Clean out drawers and cupboards.
  • Leave the apartment in better condition than when you moved in. The kitchen and bathroom should sparkle.

Damage Beyond Normal Wear and Tear

No matter how careful you may be, something is going to get broken, scratched or stained. If you break something in the apartment, fix it right away. Don’t use your security deposit to pay for:

  • Broken cabinet knobs
  • Stains on the carpeting
  • Holes in the walls
  • Closet doors and towel bars that are not hung properly

Neglecting to Report Repairs

Sometimes things just break. Leaky pipes and faucets may be the responsibility of the landlord but it is the tenant’s responsibility to report these issues before there is a serious problem. When problems are not reported and there is damage (such as water damage from a leaky pipe), the landlord may deduct the cost of the repairs from the deposit.

If the landlord does not repair the problem, the tenant may elect to pay for the repairs. Depending on the agreement, this amount may be deducted from the rent.

Unpaid Rent

Many times a landlord will keep a security deposit because of unpaid rent or failure to give the required written notice.

  • If the rent was not paid on the 1st of the month and you moved out on the 6th, the landlord may charge a full month of rent against the security deposit.
  • If the agreement requires 30 days notice and you give 20 days notice, the landlord may take 10 days rent out of the security deposit.
  • If you stay past the date given in your notice, the landlord may charge for every day past your expected move-out date.

Before you hand over the apartment keys to the landlord, do one last check and make sure you have complied with all of the terms of the rental agreement. Doing everything expected in the agreement is the surest way to get back all of your security deposit.

Last Updated: April 1, 2013
AAA Print

About Coletta Teske Coletta Teske has 25 years' experience in tech journalism, as well as home and gardening topics. She has freelanced for Fortune 500 companies such as Boeing and Microsoft, published more than two dozen computer books for Prima Publishing and Macmillan, and worked as a freelance correspondent for West Hawaii Today. Coletta has been an avid gardener since she was 2 years old. While living in Hawaii, she achieved a lifelong dream of becoming a certified master gardener.

Note: The information provided on this site may be provided by third parties. The owners and operators of this site do not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, and compliance of the content on this site. Such content is not and shall not be deemed tax, legal, financial, or other advice, and we encourage you to confirm the accuracy of the content. Use is at your own risk, and use of this site shall be deemed acceptance of the above.