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  • Writer's pictureTaleen Krug

How Do Security Deposits Work


When beginning the search for a first apartment, condo, home, or brownstone, it is okay to have questions about what a security deposit includes.


A security deposit is a payment that is usually required when moving into a new rental, along with other expenses. Furthermore, there might be fees associated with the application process, as well as a stipulation to pay the first and last month's rent.


This guide provides information on potential payments when choosing a rental, including the definition and workings of a security deposit, its cost, and frequently asked questions.


Paying a Security Deposit

When renting a property, it is common for individuals to pay a security deposit, along with the first month's rent and fees, before moving in. Paying before the deadline can increase the chances of securing the desired apartment or home, as other potential tenants may also be interested, and landlords have the option to choose those who make timely payments. When moving in, it is important to promptly take care of any necessary payments, including the security deposit.


Did you know that in some states, landlords and property management companies are not only required by law but also have the responsibility, yes you heard it right, the responsibility, of placing your precious security deposit in a separate account that earns interest? And that's not all, they should also provide you with a receipt showing the bank where your hard-earned money is held and even send you monthly statements, showing the current balance.


You may have to wait a little while before getting these details, possibly a few weeks after you've settled in. Your security deposit is sacred and can only be touched by the landlord or property management company if they have a good reason. The regular maintenance and repairs are self-funded, ensuring smooth sailing for all.


Surety Bonds

Forget about security deposits as some landlords and property management companies are shaking things up by offering surety bonds instead.


It's like a special agreement between you, a surety company, and the owner or property manager. With just a small percentage of the bond, you can rest easy knowing that the surety company has got your back in case you miss rent or repairs are needed. They'll swoop in with the remaining amount, coming to your rescue. Say goodbye to your hopes of getting any money back unlike a security deposit, every penny you fork over before moving in is gone for good.


Getting Your Security Deposit Back

Typically, tenants can receive their security deposit back if they pay rent on time and maintain the residence well. However, in some instances, the property owner may need to deduct money for deep cleaning, repainting, flooring or appliance repairs, or fixing plumbing issues. Additionally, if a rent payment is missed or late, a late fee may be deducted from the security deposit, regardless of eventual full payment.


Sometimes, you may not get your security deposit back. Make sure to read your lease to understand the terms.


Cost of a Security Deposit

The location of the property holds the key to unlocking the secret of your security deposit amount.

In Alabama, the security deposit limit is typically one month's rent, but watch out for pet deposits, deposits to undo potential alterations, and deposits to cover any risky business.


In Alaska, the security deposit usually covers up to two months' rent, unless the rent is over $2,000 per month. A pet deposit may be required, but it can only be used for pet damages.


Arizona and Michigan require One and a half months of rent as the limit.


In the sunny state of California, the rental rules vary depending on whether you want a furnished or unfurnished place. For the unfurnished folks, you can stay for a maximum of two months, while those who fancy a fully furnished pad may get an extra month. Active service members can enjoy a discount of up to one month's rent, and for those daring enough to have a waterbed, be ready to fork over an extra half month's rent.


In the state of Connecticut, the landlords have decreed that those under the age of 62 must sacrifice up to two months' worth of rent, while those who have reached the age of 62 or older must only offer up to one month. Once you hit 62, you have the power to reclaim any extra cash from your security deposit, even if you're not planning on moving.



For leases lasting one year or more, or ongoing month-to-month agreements of over a year, Delaware requires one month's rent as a deposit. Month-to-month tenants are refunded any amount paid over one month's rent after the first year. There is no limit for furnished units.


District of Columbia, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts you may need up to one month's rent.


In Hawaii, landlords have the option to charge up to one month's rent or two months' rent for tenants with pets.


In Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, and Virginia, owners can charge up to two months of rent in these states.


In Kansas, the security deposit for unfurnished dwellings can be up to one month's rent, and for furnished units, it can be up to one and a half months' rent. Landlords also have the option to add half a month's rent for pets.


In Nebraska, the maximum rental deposit is one month's rent, with an additional quarter of a month's rent allowed for pets.


In Nevada, the limit is three months of rent.


In New Hampshire, individuals may be required to provide a security deposit of up to $100, with no restrictions if the owner and tenant share certain amenities.


In the state of New Jersey, landlords have the power to collect a security deposit equal to one and a half months' rent, along with an annual additional deposit. However, this extra amount cannot exceed 10% of the original deposit.


In New Mexico, there is no restriction on the duration of leases that last one year or more, while for other rental agreements, the maximum limit is one month's rent.


In New York and South Dakota, the limit is one month for most properties.


In North Carolina, in most cases, the limit is two months' rent. Landlords can also require a nonrefundable pet deposit.


In the land of North Dakota, the pet deposit dances to the rhythm of one month's rent. But hold on tight, because it can skyrocket up to a whopping $2,500 or two months' rent, whichever comes first.


In Pennsylvania, the security deposit can be equivalent to two month's rent for the first year and one month's rent for each subsequent year.


In Washington, tenants have the option to pay the security deposit and any fees in installments if they exceed 25% of one month's rent. However, a signed installment agreement is necessary.


Stay Ahead

In the intricate world of real estate, certain areas hold tight to their precious security deposits, particularly in those coveted corners with sky-high rents and luxurious amenities. Don't miss a beat when it comes to move-in fees. Stay organized and on top of your payments by making separate checks and requesting receipts. By keeping a record of your timely payments, you not only have a safety net in case of lost paperwork but also the peace of mind that comes with being a responsible and savvy tenant. Check out these other tips below.


Credit score

Having a low credit score can seriously put a wrench in your plans when it comes to finding a place to call home. Don't let your credit score hold you back as landlords can be picky, but with a little financial finesse, you can secure that dream apartment. Pay bills promptly, reduce debts, and take control of your financial future.




Background check

Landlords often perform background checks and may deny rental applications from individuals with criminal records or poor credit scores. They also have the right to request higher security deposits.


Changes in rent

If your rent goes up, your landlord might ask for more money upfront. But, if you've got your security deposit in a savings account that earns some interest, that extra dough could cover the increase. Just a heads up, though, you'll usually have to cough up some extra cash when your security deposit jumps up after a rent change.


Conclusion

Discovering the ins and outs of your security deposit can be a wild ride! With factors like your location, the owner or property manager, and other juicy details coming into play, it's like navigating a thrilling maze of regulations. So, before you put pen to paper on that lease, buckle up and dive into the necessary information.


Common Inquiries About Security Deposits

Knowing the FAQs about security deposits is helpful when moving into a new place. It also makes it easier to understand your lease terms.


Q: Can a security deposit cover the final month's rent?


A: When a tenant decides to move out, some states allow the landlord to use the security deposit to cover the last month's rent, giving them a head start in finding a new tenant for their property.


Separating the last month's rent and security deposit? It's legal, according to local laws, so before dipping into the security deposit for the last rent payment, the landlord might have to kindly ask the tenant for written permission.


Q: Is it possible for a security deposit to be used for damages caused by fires or thefts?


A: If a tenant sets the place on fire or forgets to lock up, the landlord can dip into the security deposit to fix things. But remember, the landlord can't touch that cash until you're gone. Payment is usually collected straight from the tenants, ensuring a smooth and hassle-free transaction. When disaster strikes and you're forced to move, be prepared to say goodbye to more than just your security deposit.


If a tenant is not at fault for the damage, it is generally the landlord's responsibility to pay for the repairs. In some states, the landlord might also consider lowering the rent if a part of the dwelling cannot be used until the repairs are done. Unfortunately, they will not cover the cost of replacing your belongings. Rental insurance provides coverage for liability, damage to your unit, and replacement of stolen or damaged possessions or furniture.


Q: How long do people need to wait to get their security deposits back?

A: The timeframe for receiving your security deposit back after moving out may vary based on local regulations. If your security deposit is used to cover expenses such as missed rent or damages, your landlord or property manager typically provides a detailed list of these costs and the corresponding amounts.


Q: What options does a tenant have if a landlord or property manager refuses to return the security deposit?

A: You can start by speaking to your landlord or property manager and telling them why you should get your money back. Citing the terms of your lease or rental agreement is a good idea.


If they refuse to reevaluate or refund your security deposit, consider writing a letter with your objections, their reasons, and the amount of money you think you should receive. You can use certified mail to get a record of this letter and when you sent it. It requires a signature from the person on the address to confirm receipt. You can also send an email and keep a digital copy. If you still don't get the response you want, you can consider filing a lawsuit in small claims court. However, this process is often time-consuming.


If you're looking to invest in a tax lien property or relocate to Long Island in general, be sure to hire professional Realtors like Taleene and Ritchie Krug Jr. who can find you exactly what you're looking for in terms of the best home, house, condo, or townhome. Lifelong residents of Long Island, are part of a team with more than 40 years of combined real estate experience. They have a deep understanding of how real estate has evolved through the years which results in a team with unique dynamics and expert negotiating skills being put to work on your behalf. With 20 offices spanning Brooklyn Queens & Long Island, nobody is better equipped to handle your real estate needs.

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