Does security deposit have to be returned if the the tenants breached terms of the lease?

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Does security deposit have to be returned if the the tenants breached terms of the lease?

My tenants are allowed to keep 2 indoor cats per the terms of the written lease. They have 7 adults cats and a litter of kittens plus a pot-bellied pig inside my house. I gave them 2 weeks to remove the excess animals but they did not. I have terminated the month-to-month lease. Because they breached the contract and did not act to remedy their breach, am I obligated to refund their deposit?

Asked on October 6, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Iowa

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you unfortuately have to return the deposit, or at least as much of it as is not used to pay for repairs to the premises or to cover unpaid rent that the tenant leaves owing. Those are the *only* two reasons that a landlord may keep a security deposit: to pay for repairs, or to pay for rent. It doesn't matter what other lease terms may have been violated, or what are the grounds for eviction and termination of tenancy; nor does it matter whether the  tenants tried to remedy or cure their breach or not.

If the animals did damage requiring repair or replacement (cats scratched up cabinets; pet urine ruined rugs or carpets; pig hooves left marks on wooden floors; etc.) you would be entitled to apply the security deposit to correcting those conditions.


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