Tenant Rights and the Deposit Return
A security deposit is a 100% refundable amount of money that tenants are asked to pay before moving into a new rental unit. This does not mean that landlords are not able to charge certain fees. It simply means that a tenant must have the opportunity to receive their deposit back in full if they meet their obligations. Tenant rights and the deposit return is a fairly sticky subject that can often lead to litigation, so here are some of the areas that are commonly missed today.
1. Many Tenants Are Required To Receive Their Deposit Returned In a Specific Period Of Time.
In the United States, the window of time for a deposit to be returned varies from 14-60 days depending on the state. Some states have no specific time requirement, only stating it must be within a “reasonable” amount of time. Missing this deadline gives the tenant the right to their full deposit.
2. Tenants Have The Right To a Fair Cost Of Labor.
Most jurisdictions will allow a landlord to work on their own property to restore it to a new rental condition. What they won't allow is an excessive labor or materials charge that goes above and beyond what a vendor would charge. If you're charging $150 per hour to clean and the tenant can find a vendor who would do it for $85 per hour, they may be entitled to receive the difference.
3. Abandonment Or Eviction Don't Always Negate Deposit Return Rights.
Sometimes the security deposit can be used to pay overdue obligations, but not every time. Unless the court or landlord/tenant law has specifically stated in your circumstances that the security deposit can be kept, always assume it must be returned or an itemized invoice as to why it won't be returned must be sent.
4. Tenants Have The Right To Show Proof Of Work.
If a tenant has cleaned the rental unit and taken photographic and/or video evidence of their work with a current newspaper in the images, then they may be able to dispute your cleaning charges if you have not done the same. Tenant rights and the deposit return are one of the largest points of frustration in the landlord/tenant relationship. By knowing what is expected of each party, the deposit and the rental unit can be returned relatively intact to their respective owners.
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