What are our rights for the retur of out security deposit?

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What are our rights for the retur of out security deposit?

Landlord claims it costs $645 to clean carpets and took the money out of the $3000. He states the $250 is irrelevant because its non-refundable. Landlord is also refusing to show us receipts. In all he kept $1600. What can we do?

Asked on June 5, 2012 under Real Estate Law, Texas

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

A landlord is only allowed to retain money from the security deposit:

1) To pay for repairs caused by things the tenants (or their families, pets, guests, etc.) cause which are not normal wear and tear. Normally, tenants are not responsible for paying for carpet cleaning, unless either there is a written lease making them responsible, or the cleaning is required by something beyond normal wear and tear--such as you spilled red wine or motor oil/grease, or there were pet urine stains, etc.

2) To pay for unpaid rent--that is, if you move out not owing rent.

If the landlord takes money out of the deposit other than as  the above, he has violated the law and you may sue him to recover the security deposit and possible other compensation as well.

Also, even if the landlord is legitimately retaining money to pay for repairs, he may only take out the actual dollar cost of those repairs. So getting back to the carpet: say you had dogs who stained the carpet, so the landlord could charge you for a commercial cleaning. If it only cost him $400 though, that's all he can charge--not $645. If you think that the landlord is overcharging you, you can again sue him to recover the excess.

There is no way to make the landlord show you receipts or other evidence other than by suing him, but you can get this information and documentation in a lawsuit. One option is to sue him in small claims court: the filing fee is low, this is a straight forward matter, and you can act as your own attorney, saving on legal fees.

(Note: if the $250 was not part of the security deposit, but was an application fee, a pet deposit, or a deposit to "hold" the aparment for you, the landlord would be entitled to keep that amount--those kinds of fees or deposits may be made nonrefundable.)


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