What is a security deposit?

A security deposit is money paid in advance by the tenant to the landlord tocover potential property damage. Rent, application fees, rent paid in advance, and non-refundable fees are not considered security deposits. Unless you live in public or subsidized housing, there is no limit on the amount that can be charged as a security deposit.

Can I subtract the deposit from my last month’s rent?

No. Security deposits are separate from rentpayments, and different laws apply. Always pay your rent. Not paying any part of the last month’s rent can make you liable to the landlord for three times the amount of rent you don’t pay. If you owe rent and there is no dispute over the amount you owe, the landlord can keep the security deposit for the amount you owe. If you move out before your lease is up, your landlord may subtract a reletting fee from your security deposit. There is no limit on the amount of the reletting fee, but if it is not reasonable it might be illegal.

When can my landlord withhold my security deposit for damages?

The deposit can only be used torepair substantial damage to the property unless there are extra charges stated in the lease. Your landlord cannot withhold for damage caused by previous tenants, or for normal wear and tear to the property.

  • Normal wear and tear – A worn carpet, peeling paint, or dusty fixtures are examples.
  • “Substantial” damage – Damage due to accident, carelessness, or abuse of the property. A brokenwindow, hole in the wall, or a large carpet stain are examples. You are responsible even if the damage was caused by a guest.
  • Charges in the lease – Your lease may have special charges that can be taken out of the securitydeposit. For example, if your lease says that you can’t paint the walls, but you do, some of your deposit can be withheld as a re-painting fee.