What Can a Landlord Deduct From Your Deposit? A Primer for Current and Former Renters

Maybe you didn’t think twice when you put a big security deposit on that fancy apartment two summers ago. But now that you’re getting ready to move again, you might be wondering how much of that deposit you’ll actually get back.

Believe it or not, your deposit isn’t at the mercy of your landlord. Tenants have rights, and landlords have limitations on what they can deduct from your deposit.

In Florida, for example, “if the landlord fails to return the security deposit in a timely manner, or deducts for normal wear and tear, then the tenant can sue the landlord to get their deposit back and the landlord will have to pay the tenant’s attorney fee,” says Larry Tolchinsky, a real estate lawyer and partner at Sackrin & Tolchinsky in Hallandale Beach, FL.

But to avoid getting to that point, it’s important for tenants to understand the basics on deposits. In most states, the timely return of your deposit means there’s a deadline—such as 30 days—so be sure to leave a forwarding address.

When landlords deduct from your deposit, they will typically include an itemized statement explaining how the deposit was applied. In California, for example, if a landlord deducts any more than $126, they must provide receipts for their deductions.

Landlords can’t deduct from your deposit for any old reason; there has to be a legit circumstance. The rules may vary from city to city (or state to state), so read up on what your landlord can and can’t do in your area. But, in general, here are some things landlords can deduct from your deposit.

Nonpayment of rent

Unemployment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has hit many tenants hard, rendering them unable to pay rent. Some landlords and management companies have offered rent relief, but others have claimed that unpaid rent is unpaid rent. In this situation, landlords can collect unpaid rent—and late fees—from your deposit as necessary.

“Rent that is not paid is considered damages when a tenant vacates,” says Eric Drenckhahn, a real estate investor and property manager, who runs the blog NoNonsenseLandlord.com. “A tenant cannot use the damage deposit to pay their rent without the landlord’s approval, but a landlord can deduct it for nonpayment after a tenant has left.”

Unpaid utilities

Forgetting to pay your utility bill happens. But if you pay for things like trash and water through your property management company, be aware that your landlord could tap your security deposit to cover any bills you missed.

Tolchinsky says there is no black and white law on this, but it is possible. It all depends on the terms of your lease and local rules governing the jurisdiction that you reside in.

Abnormal cleaning costs

If you left the place trashed and filthy, expect your landlord to dig into your deposit. Landlords can deduct from your deposit for excessive dirtiness, beyond normal cleaning costs.

Drenckhahn says the place should be “broom clean,” or as clean as when you moved in.

“Dirt and grease left behind is not wear and tear,” says Drenckhahn. “Examples of excessive dirtiness includes removing stains from the carpet, replacing the carpet due to a cat using a closet for a litter box, or replacing door trim due to cat scratches.”

Doing a little cleaning before leaving isn’t a bad idea, but it doesn’t guarantee it’ll save your security deposit.

Tolchinksy says if a tenant hires a professional cleaner, rents a steam cleaner, or buys paint to paint the walls, he or she “should maintain all invoices and receipts” to provide proof to the landlord.

Damage to the property

Security deposit laws allow a landlord to deduct from a security deposit for any damage. This is different from normal wear and tear, such as faded paint or worn carpet that is naturally occurring and not due to the tenant. Examples of damage to the property include a broken bathroom vanity, cracked kitchen countertop, or broken doors.

Tolchinsky says it’s a good idea for a tenant to request a move-in and a move-out checklist and document by pictures and video the condition of the apartment.

Items left behind

Packing and moving everything you own is a huge undertaking. But regardless of how exhausted you are, don’t leave any items behind; it could be a costly mistake.

“Mattresses and box springs left behind are expensive to get rid of, and you will be charged accordingly,” says Drenckhahn. “It is not unusual to be charged $50 or more for each piece.”

If you do need to get rid of a bunch of large items, hire a junk hauling company, try to sell them online, or look into donating them to charity.

Breaking the lease

In some circumstances, breaking your lease is the only option. But breaking your lease early makes it less likely that you will reunite with your deposit.

A landlord can keep all, or part, of your deposit to cover costs if you break your lease early, per landlord-tenant state laws and what’s written in your lease contract. If you can, try to move when your lease is up.

“In my places, you are required to be out by 10 a.m. There is no late checkout, as I have tenants generally moving in the next day,” says Drenckhahn. “When you have the place clean, and even move out a few days early, it’s very easy to refund 100% of the damage deposit.”

Source: realtor.com

Things to Consider When Moving From a House to an Apartment

Moving from a house to an apartment has its perks and its challenges – and planning your move strategically can help with the latter! Whether you’re looking for a fresh start in a new town or moving cross-country for school, there are several things to consider as you downsize to an apartment.

1. Measure your new space.

That plush, overstuffed couch may look incredible in your house’s open-concept living room. However, it might be a bit overwhelming in a smaller apartment. The same goes for your six-person dining table and king size bed.

Don’t spend time or money (or elbow grease!) lugging your furniture to a new apartment only to discover it won’t fit in the door! If you’ve already picked out your specific apartment, you’ll be able to get exact measurements of each room you’ll be furnishing. Use those measurements or your apartment’s floor plan to figure out what can stay and what needs to go.

Haven’t selected your apartment yet and not sure how to downsize? You can still start determining which furnishings need to go. For example, if you know you’ll be searching for a one-bedroom apartment, you can probably get rid of your guest room and home office furniture.

2. Ditch the (unnecessary) past.

Aside from losing the excess or oversized furniture, you’ll likely have plenty of belongings to sort through as well. The beautiful thing about apartment living is that you won’t need everything you needed in a house. Appliances are provided, so don’t worry about transporting your stove. Lawn care is officially a thing of the past, so you can get rid of your gardening and landscaping tools. One downside of moving from a house to an apartment is that you’ll likely lose some storage space. However, this makes your move a perfect opportunity to declutter, donate, and sell stuff you won’t need.

3. Look into storage units.

If you’ve got things that won’t quite fit in your new apartment, but you can’t fathom getting rid of them, check out your local storage options. You can use a storage unit for keeping the things you only use sporadically, like a camping tent, seasonal décor, family heirlooms, and so on. This is also the perfect option for someone moving into a temporary apartment, who needs to stash their extra things for the time being.

4. Consider “double duty” furniture.

When downsizing to an apartment, it’s wise to be savvy with your furnishings. For example, buying a pullout couch can instantly turn your living room into a makeshift guest room. Opting for a storage ottoman instead of a coffee table can offer extra functionality. In an apartment, multi-tasking furniture like futons, modular couches, and expandable dining tables can help you make the most out of every square foot.

If you’re just testing the apartment life, you don’t need to spend a fortune on new, “multi-tasking” furniture. Avoid the upfront costs and hassle of furnishing a new space by renting furniture with CORT. When you shop at CORT, you don’t have to empty your life-savings to furnish an apartment for a one-year lease!

5. Embrace everything apartment living has to offer!

One beautiful thing about moving from a house to an apartment is the ability to take advantage of the amenities of the property. For example, an on-site gym means you can cancel your pricey gym memberships and sell your home gym equipment. Additionally, some apartment complexes offer free internet and cable, giving you one less bill to pay. There are plenty of things to look forward to when moving to an apartment!

Considering a grander life in a smaller space? Make sure you’re happy with your new home’s amenities, neighborhood, and square footage. Find your next place on Apartment Search and downsize to the perfect apartment.

Source: blog.apartmentsearch.com