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Rent and Security Deposits

Every renter must make monthly payments in a timely manner to a landlord or rental agency that represents the owner of the property. The rental amount is agreed upon at the time the rental contract or lease agreement is made. The date the rent is due and any additional penalties or charges associated with late payment should be addressed in the contract as well.

Security Deposit Basics

A security deposit is an amount of money the renter must pay to the landlord to “secure” the payment of rent. This may also be used to cover any damages to the property. State laws surrounding security deposits vary a great deal.

Security Deposit or Last Month's Rent

A security deposit is different from the last month’s rent. The landlord may collect a pre-payment from the tenant for the last month they remain in the rental property. Both the last month’s rent and the security deposit are generally equal to one month’s rent and state law may require that the deposit amount does not exceed this. If at some point the landlord chooses to raise the rent they can also require the tenant to pay supplemental amounts toward the security deposit and the last month’s rent. Neither the landlord nor the tenant may use the two deposits interchangeably.

Security Deposits: Receipts and Interest

In many states the landlord is required to provide the client with a receipt for the last month’s rent paid and the security deposit. Even if law does not require it, the tenant should always ask for one.
The receipt should contain the following:
• Amount paid to the landlord
• Date of payment
• Reason for payment
• Name of party receiving payment
• Name of the landlord if payment is collected by an agent
• Signature of landlord or agent

The landlord should always give the tenant a statement that states whether or not he or she is entitled to interest on the last month’s rent collected. In turn, the vacating tenant must leave a forwarding address where the deposit or interest should be sent. MANY STATES REQUIRE THE LANDLORD TO RETURN THE LAST MONTH’S RENT AND DEPOSIT WITH INTEREST. The tenant should thoroughly inspect the property for damages at the time the security deposit is paid. In many states a signed statement that lists any pre-existing damages to the rental is necessary. It is important for the tenant to document any damage in their own notes and to photograph the areas in question if possible.

Returning the Deposit and Deductions

While the landlord must return the security deposit within a specified timeframe after vacancy, they also have the right to deduct for unpaid rent, damage done by the tenant or their pets. While the tenant is required to maintain the rental under general sanitary conditions they are not responsible for the everyday wear and tear to the property.
If the landlord finds that there is damage to the rental after vacancy, they are required to present the following to the tenant within 30 days:

• A list detailing damages to the property that also outlines the repairs needed
• Any bills, estimates or receipts that document the cost of repairs

After the landlord deducts any charges they are required to return the balance of the security deposit (with interest if applicable) to the tenant within the prescribed amount of time. If they fail to do so or do not provide the tenant with documentation to support deductions made, the tenant may legally sue the landlord in accordance with state laws. In some areas, the tenant is awarded three times the amount of the security deposit for damages.
State courts generally provide for the quick resolution of disputes involving security deposits. Many resolve issues in small-claims court, landlord/tenant court or through a conciliation process.

To get help with a rental or lease agreement regarding rent payments, security and other deposits, please contact a Englett and Associates Real Estate Attorney today, (855) 215-2280.

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