What can I do if my landlord won’t return my security deposit?

With the end of the month—and likely the end of a few leases—coming up, we at Prudential Realty Company decided it’s time for some advice from the experts.

The question at hand this week: What can I do if my landlord won’t return my security deposit and gives no explanation?

The short answer: take legal action.

Chi Quach, assistant property manager of Alvern Gardens Apartments, explains that security deposits must be returned within 30 days of a tenant’s vacating the rented property, and any amounts withheld from the deposit must be explained.

security deposit
Renting from a reputable landlord or realty company is one of the surest ways of fair treatment of your security deposit.

Here are some reasons why your deposit might not be returned in full:

  • You’ve damaged the property beyond normal wear and tear (holes in the wall or floor, for example)
  • Your lease contained a clause regarding cleaning the property before vacating and you failed to do so
  • You failed to pay your rent and/or utilities, or you owe other outstanding charges
  • You haven’t returned the keys
  • Your landlord doesn’t have a forwarding address to which he/she can send the security deposit

This, of course, is not an exhaustive list, and you should be familiar with all the terms of your lease to ensure you don’t miss any important details such as these.

For legal and insurance (renter’s insurance is a must) purposes, it’s always a good idea to take plenty of pictures of your home. Use pictures to document the state of the apartment before you move in to avoid getting charged for existing damage. Have plenty of pictures of the place once you’ve moved in, particularly of valuables. For example, if a ceiling leak damages your TV, your insurance will need photographic evidence showing that your TV stood under the spot where your ceiling leaked. Upon moving out, take pictures of how you left the place. All this photographic evidence will be helpful should you run into problems of any kind, not just the return of your security deposit.

The smartest things you can do to protect yourself are:

  1. Sign a clearly worded lease with a reputable realtor or realty company
  2. Read everything and know the terms of your lease
  3. Get renter’s insurance
  4. Document everything

If you’re looking to rent in the Pittsburgh area, check out Prudential Realty Company’s website and contact us about our current availability.

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