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Apartment Living 101: Your Security Deposit

Nov 27, 2007
When you rent an apartment, you will most likely be asked to pay a security deposit. In many cases, the deposit is equivalent to one month's worth of rent, though it might be more. Your landlord is within his or her rights to request that you pay a security deposit, but there are several things you should know about the deposit before you sign a lease agreement and move into your apartment.

What is the Security Deposit For?

When you rent an apartment, you will likely be asked to pay a deposit in order to protect the landlord. If you fail to make your monthly payment or if you break your lease, the landlord may be able to keep your deposit in order to recoup the loses he or she experiences. Similarly, if you cause damage to the apartment before moving out, your landlord can keep the money or a portion of the money in order to make repairs to the apartment.

If the landlord does keep all or a portion of your security deposit when you move out, he or she must provide you with a detailed account of why the money was retained. For example, if you caused damage to the apartment, the landlord must detail that expense and demonstrate why the money was retained.

What is a Security Deposit NOT For?

Some unscrupulous landlords will attempt to keep a security deposit when a person moves out of the apartment, and some get away with it because their former tenants simply do not know their rights.

One thing that a security deposit is not for is wear and tear. If the dishwasher in the apartment needs to be replaced because it has worn out or the walls need to be repainted because the paint is getting dull or discolored, you are not expected to pay for these expenses.

In most states, landlords are required to return a deposit within 30 days after the tenant moves out of the apartment. It is a good idea to check with your state if you are uncertain about the time frame your landlord has.

Preparing for Disputes

If your 30 days has come and gone since you moved out of the apartment and your landlord still has not returned your security deposit, it may be time to file a claim in small claims court. In order to prepare for this possibility, you should always document the condition of the apartment before you move in as well as at the time you move out. Taking photographs is also a good idea as this will give the judge a visual idea of the condition of the apartment both before you moved in and after you moved out.

Although no one anticipates having difficult with getting their security deposit back when moving out of an apartment, it is always a good idea to plan for the worse situation. That way, you will be protected regardless of the situation.
About the Author
Eric Bramlett is the broker & co-owner of One Source Realty in Austin, Texas. Eric currently manages his Austin Apartment Locator Guide, his Southwest Austin Apartments company's website, & his Austin rental agent Guide.
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