What You Need to Know About Your Security Deposit

Authored By: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services

General Information

What You Need to Know About Your Security Deposit

A security deposit is an amount of money that you pay your landlord when you move in.

Your landlord can use the money to cover unpaid rent and the cost to repair the damage. Repair damages are only those above normal wear and tear when you move out.

Your landlord should give the security deposit back to you when you move out if there is no unpaid rent or damage. You may not use your security deposit for your last month's rent unless your landlord agrees.

There are no limits to how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit to lease premises. Usually, it is the cost of one month's rent.

Information for Renters on Section 8:

Your landlord can still ask for the entire amount of the cost of the security deposit. Even if you pay less than the entire amount of rent each month, you may still need to pay the entire security deposit.

The Federal, Fair Housing Act, protects you from discrimination in rental housing. State law, including the Louisiana Equal Housing Opportunity Act, also protects you.

A landlord cannot deny you housing on the basis of:

  • Color

  • Race

  • Religion

  • Sex

  • National Origin

  • Disability

  • Familial status

For example, under the law, your landlord cannot ask for a higher security deposit amount.

If you are being discriminated against, you may be able to get help. Reach out to an attorney or contact the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

File a federal complaint of housing discrimination with FHEO. FHEO enforces fair housing law and investigates complaints of housing discrimination.

A security deposit is money that you pay to your landlord. Your landlord does not have to pay interest unless you both agreed to this in your lease agreement.

Your landlord can deduct costs from your security deposit:

  • If you owe rent, or

  • There are damages to the leased space above normal wear and tear.

Your landlord might also keep your security deposit if you do not give proper notice if you decide to move out. To help make sure you get your security deposit money returned, check your lease and read the terms. Your lease should have information about how much notice you need to give before you move out.

Some leases ask you to give your landlord at least 30 days' advance notice of your intent to move out. Some leases ask for more than 30 days of proper notice. Your landlord may keep and deduct unpaid rent from your security deposit if you do not give notice. Find your lease to understand the terms of proper notice.

If get your money back or you disagree with the amount of money you get back you can sue your landlord. Here, you can find more information to get your security deposit back and protect your rights.

Your landlord cannot keep your security deposit for damage(s) that are not normal wear and tear. Examples of "normal wear and tear" are:

  • a worn carpet;

  • worn finish on wood floors;

  • faded paint; or

  • small holes in screens.

Your landlord also cannot keep your deposit for damage that was there when you moved in.

The best way to protect yourself from damage(s) that you did not cause is by taking photos with a time stamp. Take photos when you move in and when you move out. That way you can have evidence that might prove that you did not cause any damage(s)

The landlord may deduct the cost of fixing damage to the property that is more than "normal wear and tear." Examples of things that are not normal wear and tear and maybe actual physical damage include:

  • broken windows;

  • holes in the walls;

  • Soiled or stained carpet that was not like that when you moved in;

  • Leaving trash or other items;

  • Leaving your leased space dirty

If your leased space gets damaged by a storm, fire, or vandal, tell your landlord right away. The landlord cannot charge you for repairs or physical damage that you did not cause.

Check the terms of your lease to find the amount of notice you need to give your landlord before you move out. To get your security deposit back, you must give proper notice to the landlord of your intent to move.

Generally, if you have a one-year lease, you must give at least 30-days written notice of your intent to move. Check your lease to see if you need to give more notice.

If you have a month-to-month lease or no written lease you must give the landlord notice in writing. Generally, you must give at least 10-days written notice of your intention to move before you do.

If you have a written lease or other agreement, read it to see what kind of notice you must give before moving out. You must follow your lease if it requires more notice than the law. You may lose your right to your security deposit if you do not give the right notice. Your landlord may also try to charge you for the time after you move.

Your landlord has 30-days after you move out to either:

  • (1) Return your deposit, or;

  • (2) Send you a letter explaining why your deposit is not given back to you in full or in part.

Your landlord should send your deposit back or you send you a statement. The statement explains the reasons the landlord is keeping your security deposit. If the landlord sends a statement, this letter has to be "itemized." That means the landlord has to list the specific things covered by the money the landlord is keeping.

When you move out, inform your landlord where to send your deposit or statement. Include a forwarding address.

You can sue your landlord in court if you do not get your security deposit returned to you. If you owe the landlord any money for unpaid rent, then your landlord might counter your claim in court.

If your landlord sues you, you may be able to also counterclaim in court for the return of your security deposit.

Your security deposit goes to the new owner of the building if your building sells during your lease. Your landlord must give the money to the new owner. The new owner must return your deposit when you give notice that you are moving out. If your deposit is not transferred to the new owner, you can get your deposit back from your landlord.


Protect Your Security Deposit

What can I do to help protect my security deposit?

Before or when you move in:

  1. Get a payment receipt for your security deposit and keep it.

  2. When you move in, make a list of defects or things that are wrong with the apartment and get your landlord to sign it.

  3. Take time-stamped photos of the apartment when you move in.

  1. Give your landlord the right kind of advance notice in writing of your plan to move out. There is a sample "moving out" letter included with this resource. If you have a lease, read it to find out how you have to give notice before moving out. Keep a copy of the notice and proof of how you sent it for your records, including any proof of mailing.

  2. Return keys on time and to the right person.

  3. Pay your rent up to the date before you move and any other unpaid rent.

  4. Make sure your apartment is in good condition when you move out.

  5. Take time-stamped pictures of your leased space and take notes about the condition.

  6. If possible, have a friend or relative look over the apartment before you move out. They can be a witness in case you have to go to court to get your security deposit money back.

  7. Leave the apartment clean and throw out all trash.

After you move out:

  1. Send written notice to your landlord asking for your deposit back. Make sure you have the date you sent your notice so you can show the court when you sent written notice if necessary.

  2. Include information about your forwarding address with your written notice to your landlord.

  3. Keep a copy of the written notice you send, plus proof of when and how you sent it, for your records. For example, you may consider certified mail to keep proof of when and how you mailed it.

Sample Letter(s)

Notice of Intent to Vacate Sample Letter

Security Deposit Demand Sample Letter

Last Review and Update: Oct 18, 2022
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