Landlord hasn’t returned my security deposit. What should I do?

By Tenant

Before you moved in, you were required to pay a security deposit. The security deposit, depending on how your lease agreement was worded, should take care of repairs and even the last month’s rent. In most cases, the security deposit will be equivalent to a month’s rent but if you live in those really classy apartments, you might be charged more.

A landlord should return your security deposit if:

  • You don’t owe any back rent.
  • There are not damages to the property when you moved out (aside from normal wear and tear).
  • There are no deductions for disposing of and storing your unclaimed property.
  • Professional cleaning is required

However, there could be some lease agreements that has nonrefundable deposits that will be used for cleaning costs. These should only be a portion of your security deposit and not the whole amount.

If you owe more than your security deposit then your landlord can:

  • Sue you in court
  • Go after you personally with an itemized list of all the repairs plus receipts
  • Forward you to a collections agency

When you will have your security deposit back will depend on your state tenant laws and lease agreement. Generally, though, your landlord has 21 days after you moved out to return your security deposit to you. The legal limit for the return of the security deposit is 30days.

What if landlord has exceeded the legal limit and still has no returned my deposit?

If this is the case, you should do the following:

  1. Secure a Request for Return of Security Deposit. This is a form available online. You can also approach a public attorney office for a copy.
  2. Send the accomplished form to your landlord. Make sure to use certified mail so you can have a return receipt as proof of delivery.
  3. Keep a copy of the form for your personal records.
  4. Wait 7 days for your landlord to respond.

If your landlord still doesn’t respond, you can file a complaint against him using RPA’s mediation services. To do that, fill out the form available through this link:

RPA offers mediation services. They can give you documentation that you tried to resolve the conflict outside of court. But if your landlord still does not return your deposit and does not even send out responses, then you should sue him in a small claims court.

If the landlord has deducted too much from your security deposit, you can still file a complaint against him and/or sue him in court.

Edited on: Thursday, February 28th, 2013 12:27 am

15 Responses to “Landlord hasn’t returned my security deposit. What should I do?”

My response: (We welcome stories, examples, explanations, answers and a touch of your personality)


February 28th, 2013 12:40 am

I live in California and I had an experience with a landlord who charged me for wear and tear. He took out from my security deposit the cost of washing the curtains, steaming the carpets and even replacing the entire bathroom door because I had a nail on it for a hook. I took him to small claims court and the judge ruled in my favor.


February 28th, 2013 11:00 am

I learned that if your landlord does not send you back your security deposit within the period specified by the state then you can hold your landlord responsible for the entire security deposit. This means that if you win in court, you can have your security deposit back, without deductions. Plus, your landlord can pay your for damages too.


February 28th, 2013 9:20 pm

If it was so easy for the landlord to get the security deposit back from tenants then it should be returned to the tenant just as easily.


March 1st, 2013 7:40 am

I would like to add that if the landlord refuses to return the security deposit even after you’ve demanded for it repeatedly, your landlord may be held liable to pay you triple the amount of the security deposit you gave.


March 1st, 2013 6:00 pm

Tip: do a walk through before you leave and then prepare a document listing all the damages and cleaning needs that your landlord has noted. Have him sign the document so that if ever there are disputes later on, you can object. You have proof.


March 2nd, 2013 4:20 am

If I broke the lease agreement, can I still get my deposit back?


March 2nd, 2013 2:30 pm

You would need to check your lease agreement first. What does it say about the security deposit in case you break the lease agreement? There are agreements that will still return the deposit after all the deductions and you will be charged separate for early termination penalty. But there are also security deposits that will be forfeited should you break the lease early.


March 3rd, 2013 12:40 am

I would immediately hire a lawyer if ever my landlord does not return my security deposit. It’s best to give him a lesson he would never forget.


March 3rd, 2013 11:00 am

Hiring a lawyer is costly. I would rather go with a low-cost alternative like mediation services first before anything else.


March 3rd, 2013 9:20 pm

As far as hiring a lawyer is concerned, you need to go with someone who has a good reputation in handling tenant-landlord disputes. If you’ve already moved to another state, then that’s another story.,


March 4th, 2013 7:40 am

Landlords who do not return their tenants’ security deposits should not be in the real estate industry. They do not even know the law well enough to operate legally.


March 4th, 2013 6:00 pm

That’s why you should always ask around first to know what that landlord is like before you sign any lease agreement. The internet offers a good source of information like reviwes and testimonials.


March 5th, 2013 4:20 am

How do landlords determine normal wear and tear? This is a grey area. Shouldn’t a professional be hired to determine which is normal wear and tear?


March 5th, 2013 2:40 pm

Normal wear and tear would like fading in some areas of the carpet where the sun shines. It could be ueneven surfaces due to heavy foot traffic or the pain naturally chipping or fading due to age.


March 6th, 2013 1:00 am

Correct. Anything that you didn?t do can be considered normal wear and tear. So if you damaged the property, have it documented and then have it repaired to the best that you can. If you let your landlord do the repair, it’ll be more costly.


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