There are certain reasons that allow landlords can keep their tenant’s security deposit. These are also things that tenants should watch out for, so that they can ensure that they get their deposits returned. A security deposit is essentially a sum of cash, usually equivalent to one month’s rent, which is given to the landlord to cover any damage that might occur to the property during the tenant’s occupation of the home. Tenants are able to retrieve this money when they leave, as long as they have followed all the rules of the lease agreement that they have with their landlord. There are a few situations where the landlord can keep all or some of the deposit. (Each state has its own laws regarding security deposits, and landlords should be up-to-date on their state’s regulations.)
- Property damage. One of the most common reasons that landlords keep a security deposit is property damage. The type of damage that would warrant a landlord to keep the deposit is not just normal wear and tear – it’s large and noticeable damage, such as large holes in walls, stains or holes in carpeting, major water damage to hardwood floors, damaged or missing smoke detectors, broken windows, broken doors, cracked countertops, and keys that aren’t returned at the end of the lease.
- Default rent. If a tenant refuses to pay or just leaves without paying their rent, landlords have the right to keep all of the security deposit, since most states stipulate this as a legitimate reason for keeping the security deposit. Keeping the deposit allows the landlord to cover the cost of the lost rent.
- Early rent/lease termination. Breaking a rent/lease contract allows a landlord to collect the full or part of the security deposit to cover the costs of the broken lease. However, this must be noted clearly on the rent/lease contract in order for the landlord to collect the security deposit.