How To Get Your Security Deposit Back

Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab
Read this in: Spanish / Español


About Getting Your Security Deposit Back

This covers the process of requesting your security deposit back from your landlord. Landlords have to give back the security deposit to their tenants. If they decide to keep a part of the deposit, they must provide the tenant with an itemized receipt that explains the specific deductions made from the deposit. This receipt should clearly state the reasons for withholding the funds.

What You Need To Know

A security deposit is a sum of money that an individual pays to the landlord when they move into a leased space. 

A security deposit is a payment that you make to your landlord when you start renting a place. The landlord holds onto this money and can use it if you don’t pay rent or if you damage the property beyond normal wear and tear. 

At the end of the rental period, assuming there are no damages to the property beyond normal wear and tear and you’ve paid your rent, the landlord gives you back the full deposit. However, if there are any deductions made from the deposit, such as for repairs or unpaid rent, the remaining amount, if any, will be returned to the renter.

There are no specific rules or restrictions on how much a landlord can ask for as a security deposit when you rent a place. It is common for landlords to request a security deposit that is equivalent to one month’s rent. 

This means that if your monthly rent is $1000, the landlord may ask you to provide a security deposit of $1000. The purpose of this deposit is to protect the landlord in case you don’t pay rent or cause any damages to the property. 

While one month’s rent is a typical amount, some landlords may ask for a higher or lower security deposit depending on their own policies or the rental market in that area. It’s important to carefully review your lease agreement to understand the specific terms and conditions regarding the security deposit.

Your landlord has the right to use your security deposit for a few reasons: 

  1. If you owe rent or haven’t paid your full rent amount. 

  2. If there are damages to the leased space that go beyond normal wear and tear. 

Additionally, your landlord might keep your security deposit if you don’t give proper notice before moving out. To ensure you receive your security deposit back, review your lease agreement and understand the terms. It should mention the amount of notice you need to provide before moving out. Some leases require at least 30 days’ notice, while others may ask for more. If you fail to give the required notice, your landlord may keep the deposit and deduct any unpaid rent. Refer to your lease to understand the specific terms for proper notice.

Your landlord is not allowed to keep your security deposit for damages that are considered normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear include things like a worn carpet, faded paint, or small holes in screens. It also includes damages that were already present when you moved into the place. 

To protect yourself from being wrongly charged for damages you didn’t cause, it’s a good idea to take photos with a time stamp. Take pictures when you first move in and when you move out. This way you’ll have evidence that can prove you didn’t cause any damage and help you get your full security deposit back.

The landlord can take money from your security deposit to fix damages that go beyond normal wear and tear. Examples of such damages are broken windows, holes in the walls, stained carpets that weren't there when you moved in, leaving trash or other items, and leaving the leased space dirty.

If your rented space gets damaged due to a storm, fire, or vandalism, it's important to inform your landlord immediately. The landlord cannot charge you for repairs or physical damage that you didn't cause.

To ensure you get your security deposit back, it’s important to know the notice period required before moving out as stated in your lease agreement. 

If you have a one-year lease, typically you need to give at least 30 days written notice before you move out. However, it’s crucial to check your lease for any specific requirements regarding notice. 

If you have a month-to-month lease or no written lease, you must provide written notice to your landlord. Generally, you should give at least 10 days' written notice before you plan to move. 

Carefully read your written lease or agreement to determine the specific notice period you need to follow. If your lease requires a longer notice period than the law mandates, you must comply with the lease terms. Failing to provide the correct notice might result in losing your security deposit, and your landlord might try to charge you for the time after you move out.

After you move out, your landlord has 30 days to do one of two things:

  1. Return your security deposit in full.

  2. Send you a letter explaining why your deposit is not being returned in full or partially.

If the landlord decides to keep some or all of your deposit, they must provide you with an itemized statement. This statement will list the specific reasons and expenses for which they are deducting money from your deposit.

When you move out, make sure to inform your landlord about your forwarding address. This way, they know where to send your deposit or the itemized statement.

Steps To Ask For Your Security Deposit Back

How To Ask For Your Security Deposit Back

To request your security deposit back you must first determine whether you qualify to get your security deposit back. There may be specific requirements about property condition, issues with unpaid rent or fees, and requirements to give notice to move out.

Once you determine that you qualify to ask for your security deposit back, then you can reach out to ask your landlord for the return of your security deposit by sending a notice in writing.

The landlord has time to respond to the request, usually 30 days. The landlord must send you either your security deposit back in full or an itemized list of deductions for why your security deposit is not being returned in full.

You may need to follow up with the landlord, and if the issue cannot be resolved, you may seek other legal recourse such as filing a case in small claims court.

Steps To Ask For Your Security Deposit Back

Make sure you determine whether you qualify to receive your security deposit back. This typically depends on several factors, including the property condition, unpaid rent, or fees, and compliance with notice requirements. Here are these key considerations to help you determine your eligibility: 

  1. Property condition: Assess how you left the property at move-out. If there is no clause in the lease that requires specific cleaning, then you must return the property in the same condition in which it was rented - allowing for normal wear and tear. If a tenant fails to do this, all or part of the deposit may be withheld. 

  2. Unpaid rent and fees: Make sure that all rent and other outstanding financial obligations, such as late fees or utility bills, are settled before moving out. Unpaid balances may be deducted from your security deposit. 

  3. Compliance with notice requirements: You need to follow the rules stated in your lease agreement or those specified under Louisiana law when notifying your landlord about ending your tenancy. The notice period refers to the amount of time you have to inform your landlord in advance before your current lease term ends. If you fail to meet these notice requirements, your landlord may keep some or all of the security deposit. To be sure, read your lease agreement to see if there are any specific instructions about giving notice before moving out. For example, if your lease states that you must give 90 days' notice, you need to inform your landlord 90 days before you plan to move out. In Louisiana, the general rule is that you must give at least 30 days' notice for a one-year or 10 days' notice for a month-to-month lease. If you don't have a lease agreement, it is assumed that you have a month-to-month tenancy. 

Give notice of your move-out to your landlord. The form of your move-out notice should be in writing and should typically include the following: 

  • The tenant's information including your full name, current address, and contact information.

  • The landlord's information including the landlord's name, address, and contact information.

  • A clear statement that you are providing notice to terminate the tenancy and move out of the rental property. 

  • The date of move-out by clearly stating the exact date you intend to vacate the premises. Make sure to check for any specific requirements regarding notice periods. 

  • Any cleaning and repairs by mentioning your plans to clean the rental unit thoroughly before moving out and, if necessary to make any required repairs as per the lease agreement or under law. 

  • A request for a move-out inspection by expressing your desire to have a move-out inspection with the landlord to assess the condition of the premises and address any concerns regarding the security deposit. 

  • A signature by signing the letter with your full name. 

Remember to keep a copy of the move-out letter for your records and send it to your landlord via certified mail or another reliable method that provides proof of delivery. It's also a good practice to take photos or videos of the property's condition before you move out as evidence in case any disputes arise. 

If you don’t have a formal lease agreement in place make sure to indicate in writing on the letter the dates that you occupied the rental unit and the terms agreed upon (such as monthly rent, move-in date, and any verbal agreements made.)

On the last day of your tenancy, when you move out, send a written request to your landlord for the return of your security deposit. The written request should generally include: 

  • The tenant's information including your full name, current address, and contact information.

  • The landlord's information including the landlord's name, address, and contact information.

  • A clear statement requesting the return of your security deposit back.

  • A forwarding address by providing a new address where the landlord can send the security deposit and any other correspondence. 

  • A signature by signing the letter with your full name. 

You can also include a deadline for the response in your letter by setting a reasonable deadline by which you expect a response from the landlord. 

Remember to keep a copy of the letter for your records and send it to your landlord via certified mail or another reliable method that provides proof of delivery.

Check for the timeframe that your landlord has to respond to your request and return the deposit. It is common for leases to outline a specific timeframe, such as 30 days, for the landlord to respond. Some leases might indicate a longer time period to return the security deposit, such as 60 days. In the absence of a written lease, tenant-landlord relationships are determined under Louisiana law. In Louisiana, landlords generally have 30 days to return the security deposit or provide an itemized list of deductions. 

Generally, you can give your landlord 30 days after the date the lease terminates, to respond to your request and return the deposit. Landlords are required to return the security deposit within 30 days after the lease terminates. If the landlord withholds any amount, they must provide a written itemized statement explaining the deductions and reasons for withholding. This itemized statement should detail each deduction and the corresponding justification for withholding the funds.

If you don’t receive a response or the full deposit within 30 days, politely follow up with your landlord. Remind them of your initial request and inquire about the status of your deposit. Politely reference the relevant timeframe specified by law, such as the 30-day period, to highlight that the deadline for returning the deposit has passed. Inquire about the progress made regarding the return of your deposit. Ask for an update on when you can expect to receive the deposit or a detailed explanation if there have been any delays. 

If there is a disagreement regarding the return of the security deposit, attempt to resolve the issue through negotiation and communication with your landlord. Demonstrate your concern while giving your landlord an opportunity to address any oversight or delay in returning your deposit. It’s essential to keep copies of all communications for your records.

If your landlord fails to return the deposit or withholds an unreasonable amount without a valid explanation, you may need to take legal action. Consult an attorney or explore your options such as filing a lawsuit in small claims court. Keep in mind that small claims court has a maximum claim limit, so ensure your case falls within that threshold.

Other Issues To Consider

Other Issues To Consider

These may be some of the other issues to consider related to asking for your security deposit back. 

Other Issues To Consider

When your lease is renewed, whether you choose to renew it or it happens automatically, it can sometimes create difficulties in getting your security deposit back. In such cases, it's important to understand the specific terms and conditions outlined in your lease agreement. 

When a lease automatically renews, the terms of the lease generally stay the same unless otherwise specified in the lease agreement or agreed upon by both parties. This means that the duration, rent amount, and other terms and conditions outlined in the original lease will carry over into the renewed lease. 

However, it's important to note that when a lease is renewed, the landlord may ask for a new security deposit for the extended lease period. This means that the security deposit you paid for the previous lease might not be returned to you until you move out and terminate the renewed lease.

To avoid misunderstandings, make sure to check whether your landlord will keep your previous deposit or require a new one for the renewed lease. Additionally, carefully review the lease agreement to understand the specific conditions under which the security deposit will be refunded when the lease eventually ends. This may involve following specific requirements, such as providing the appropriate type of advance notice before moving out. 

The ability to get your security deposit back when your lease ends early depends on the specific terms and conditions outlined in your lease agreement. In many cases, if you terminate your lease early, you may forfeit your security deposit or a portion of it. This is because the security deposit serves as a form of protection for the landlord against any unpaid rent or damages caused during the tenancy. 

Some lease agreements may include provisions that allow tenants to receive a refund of their security deposit if they terminate the lease early under certain circumstances. These circumstances could include finding a replacement tenant, providing sufficient notice, or reaching an agreement with the landlord. 

Landlords must provide tenants with a detailed itemized list of deductions within a certain timeframe after the tenant moves out. Failure to comply with these legal obligations can result in penalties for the landlord. Without an itemized list of deductions, tenants may be deprived of their right to dispute the deductions or challenge the landlord's decision. 

If a landlord unlawfully withholds a security deposit or fails to provide an itemized list of deductions, the tenant may have the right to take legal action. Tenants may be entitled to additional damages or penalties if the court finds the landlord's actions are found to be in bad faith. 

If you receive an itemized list of deductions from your security deposit that you believe are incorrect, you may need to take appropriate steps to address the issue. 

  • Review the itemized list: Carefully examine the deductions outlined by the landlord. Compare the list to the condition of the property when you moved in and when you moved out. Assess whether the deductions are valid based on normal wear and tear versus actual damages. 

  • Gather evidence: Compile any evidence that supports your claim that deductions are incorrect. This can include move-in and move-out inspection reports, photographs or videos of the property’s condition, receipts for repairs you may have completed, or any other relevant documentation. 

  • Communicate with the landlord: Reach out to your landlord in writing, preferably via email or formal letter to express your concern and disagreement with the deductions. Clearly and concisely explain why you believe the deductions are inaccurate, providing any supporting evidence. 

  • Review a revised itemized list: Ask the landlord to provide a revised itemized list of deductions that accurately reflects the condition of the property and justifies the deductions made. Request documentation or receipts to substantiate their claims. 

Try to reach an agreement with your landlord through direct communication. You may consider seeking the assistance of a neutral third party, to negotiate or mediate the discussion and find a resolution. If all attempts at resolving the dispute fail, you may need to consider legal action. Consult with a lawyer to explore your options and determine if pursuing a legal remedy, such as small claims court, is advisable in your situation. 

Pets may or may not be permitted under the terms of the lease. Some leases that allow pets require the tenant to pay a deposit for damages caused by the pet. Money held as a pet deposit is recoverable. Money held as a “pet fee or charge” may not be recoverable according to the terms of the lease.

Tenants should apply for refunds of pet deposits in writing on the final day of occupancy, the same way they would request their regular security deposit.

There are specific provisions in place to protect victims of domestic violence when it comes to ending their leases early. These provisions aim to ensure that victims are not penalized for terminating their leases due to the circumstances they are facing. 

When a tenant is a victim of domestic violence, they may be able to terminate their lease early without incurring any penalties or financial consequences. To do so, they are typically required to provide proper documentation as evidence of the domestic violence situation. This documentation may include a restraining order issued by the court or a police report that substantiates the occurrence of domestic violence. 

Once the tenant provides the necessary documentation to the landlord or property management, they can initiate the process of early lease termination. In such cases, the landlord is often obligated to return the security deposit to the tenant, recognizing the unique circumstances and the need for the tenant to leave the premises swiftly and safely.

When you have a shared roommate situation, the process of getting back your security deposit typically depends on the specific arrangements and agreements made with your roommates and the landlord. The specifics of returning the security deposit in a shared roommate situation may vary depending on your lease agreement or any roommate agreement in place. Here are some general considerations:

  • Joint Lease: If you and your roommates are all listed as tenants on a joint lease, the security deposit is usually returned as a whole to the group collectively. This means that all roommates are responsible for ensuring the return of the full deposit amount.
  • Individual Lease: In some cases, each roommate may have signed an individual lease with the landlord. In this situation, each roommate's security deposit is typically handled separately. Each person will receive the return of their own individual deposit.

  • Roommate Agreement: It's important to refer to any roommate agreement that you and your roommates may have established at the beginning of your tenancy. The agreement should outline the specific terms regarding the security deposit, including how it will be divided or returned when the lease ends.

  • Inspection and Damages: Prior to moving out, it's advisable to conduct a thorough inspection of the rental unit with your roommates and the landlord. This allows everyone to identify any damages or issues that may affect the return of the security deposit. By documenting the condition of the property together, you can resolve any disputes or discrepancies in a fair manner.

  • Communication with Roommates and Landlord: It's important to maintain open and transparent communication with your roommates and the landlord throughout the process. Discuss the return of the security deposit with your roommates and ensure everyone is in agreement on how it will be handled.

Last Review and Update: Jun 20, 2023
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