Make Sure You’ll Get Your Security Deposit Back

What would you do if your landlord didn’t give you a security deposit back when you decided to move out?

Has it ever happened to you? Many tenants just don’t get their money back without any explanation, but…

It’s illegal for a landlord to keep your security deposit, unless he/she has reasons to do so!

By the way…

Do You Know How the Landlord May Use Your Security Deposit?

If the condition of the property you just left is not satisfactory, your landlord may use your security deposit to cover the following:

  • Unpaid rent or other charges (e.g. unpaid utility expenses).
  • Rent charged if the tenant failed to notify the landlord in advance that he/she was moving out).
  • Fixing the damage the tenants or their guests caused (however, usual wear and tear, such as a worn-out dishwasher, is not considered damage).
  • Cleaning the property if the tenant failed to make it as tidy as it used to be during the move-in.

Keep in mind that after you move out, your landlord should return your security deposit in full within 21 days, if you left the property in a good condition.

Otherwise your landlord has to email or personally give you:

  • A written notification which explains the reasons to keep all your deposit or a part of it.
  • A detailed list of the fines.
  • A partial security deposit refund (if any) and the copies of the receipts for the deductions, if the sum exceeds $126.

You can say that it’s sometimes impossible to fix the property in 21 days… You are right! In such a case, you will be likely to receive an estimated cost of repairs from your landlord. When everything is fixed, you should get the receipts within the period of 14 days.

So it is crucial to know the laws, if you want a full security deposit return. Should any ambiguous situation occur, you can rely on the Rent Law.

Of course, Security deposit agreements may vary depending on the state and even the city, so investigate all the rules and regulations carefully to know your rights as a tenant.

How Can You Avoid a Security Deposit Dispute?

A lot of tenants just don’t care about their security deposits for apartments or houses until they decide to move out and find another property for rent. And that’s where most of them get stuck.

You don’t want to be liable to a penalty clause, do you? So you can take preventive measures that will help you avoid a dispute!

Here are some secrets that would allow you to claim your money back without any headaches when you are moving out…

Take Photos Before You Move In

First of all, take some photos of your new home and attach them to the document where you record the condition of the property. If you find some issues, email the images to the landlord right away! It’s better to have the evidence of the fact that it wasn’t you who caused the damage.

Keep On Documenting Every Single Change

If you’ve got damages, or some of your appliances need to be fixed, and it’s not your fault… You should take photos and send them immediately!

Are you aware that you can use Rentberry to contact your landlord? Good news – your online communication has never been easier! You can send a maintenance service request via our website, setting the priority and adding a brief description of what happened in just a minute! It’s easy: just check this guide from our Help Center

Submit maintenance request

If you’d like to change around or paint the walls, meaning some improvements, check if your landlord likes your ideas. It will prevent you from being accused of the damages caused by your actions when you move out.

And if you are lucky enough, you may even get a reimbursement for the improvements from your landlord. Don’t forget to take pictures of the freshly-painted walls or the new tiles and email them to your landlord!

Just Keep Your Property in a Good Condition

It’s as simple as that… Yet many tenants do nothing about the damages made by their pets or guests. You’d better fix everything before your landlord finds out!

Yes, you will have to pay! But it’s nothing… compared to the charges that you might face when moving out!

But What If…

…you’ve got a month-to-month rental agreement?

You should give your landlord a written notice no later than 30 days before you move out. If you neglect this rule, you might have to pay extra rent, which may be taken from your security deposit.

…you have to move out before the end of the lease?

Help your landlord find another tenant to rent the property. If there is no substitute, you might face paying rent until your agreement ends, which means you won’t get your security deposit back.

…you are leaving while your roommates stay?

There is a legal obligation for the landlords to keep the security deposit until all the tenants move out. So you can negotiate with your roommates or ask your landlord to be flexible and return your share.

…want to be present when the landlord is checking the property?

It’s better to be there when your landlord is inspecting your former rental property. You’ll be able to agree upon fixing the issues, if any, or doing some extra cleaning. If the landlord doesn’t find any problems, ask for your security deposit at the meeting.

…don’t want to give your former landlord your new address?

You might have some reasons to hide your forwarding address. However, your landlord is legally entitled to keep your security deposit if he/she cannot reach you, according to the regulations in some states.

You did Everything Possible, but the Landlord Still Holds Back Your Deposit?

If you don’t agree with your landlord’s decision and want to get your deposit back, try to negotiate and reach a compromise with your landlord. Perhaps he/she will agree to give at least a part of your money back!

You can also write a demand letter, attaching a security deposit refund form. It should include the following information:

  • A logical explanation why you think the landlord has to return your deposit.
  • Copies of all the agreements, emails and photos which can underpin your reasoning.
  • Relevant citations of the state security deposit law.

If Nothing Else Works, Take the Issue to the Small Court

The landlord keeps your security deposit without providing you with a proper explanation? You can address the small claims court. It won’t cost you much – only $10-50.


If you want to win the case, you should collect all the possible evidence! Be sure to bring with you a copy of your move-out notification email, the photos that prove your property was in a good condition when you were leaving and your demand letters.

The trial won’t last more than 15 minutes. You’ll get the judge’s verdict in the courtroom or receive it by email a few days later.

Is it worth the effort? Well, your security deposit must be a significant sum of money, so why not get it back? If there is no other way to reach an agreement, the court will help you restore justice.

Hopefully, you’ll find these tips useful and get your security deposit back easily.

If you enjoyed the post or would like to share your story about returning a security deposit, please leave a comment below.


  1. Don’t forget to look at your state’s specific laws regarding security deposits; some landlords have a 21-day window to return deposits, but other states allow for a longer or shorter amount of time.

  2. Thank you, very informative.

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