What is a security deposit?
A security deposit is a sum of money paid by a tenant to the landlord as a sort of insurance policy to be used for:
- Past rent when a tenant fails to pay;
- The cost of repairing damages above normal wear;
- The cost of cleaning the premises;
- A combination of any of the above.
How much can a landlord charge as a security deposit?
For private housing, the total amount of required security deposit cannot exceed three months’ rent, including prepayment of the last month's rent.
When can a landlord keep all or part of the security deposit?
A landlord may only keep as much of the security deposit as is necessary to remedy any default in rent, repair any damages above normal wear and reasonably clean the premises.
The cost to repair damages caused by either an intentional act or neglect of the tenant (or his family, guests, etc.), such as a window broken by a tenant's child, can be deducted from the security deposit.
If the tenant fails to make a repair he is responsible for, after giving 14 days notice, the landlord can cause the repairs to be made. Payment to the landlord for such repair work is then due from the tenant and shall be paid in addition to the rent when the rent is next due. If the tenant has moved, the cost for repairs may be deducted from the security deposit.
What can you do if you disagree about the amount of your security deposit kept or refunded?
If the landlord sends you a list of deductions and you disagree with those deductions and the amount of the deposit refunded, you may sue the landlord in Small Claims Court to recover the amount which you believe that the landlord has unreasonably kept. Contact your local justice court or WLS (329-2727) for information regarding how to file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court.
If the ownership of my rental property changes hands, is the new owner responsible for the security deposit which I paid to the previous owner?
Yes, once you pay a deposit, all future owners are responsible.
Can a landlord keep all or part of the security deposit for past due rent?
Yes, a landlord can keep all or part of a security deposit to recover past due rent. The landlord does not have to apply your security deposit to your last month's rent while you still reside on the premises.
Can part of a security deposit ever be automatically considered non-refundable?
A rental or lease agreement can provide that a cleaning charge in a reasonable amount is nonrefundable, but no other part of the security deposit can be considered non-refundable.
When must a landlord return all or part of the security deposit?
Within 30 days after termination of tenancy, the landlord must give the tenant an itemized accounting of the security deposit kept for repairs beyond normal wear, cleaning or back rent, and he must return any remaining portion of the deposit.
The landlord must hand the itemized accounting and refund balance personally to the tenant at the place the rent is paid or mail it to the tenant's present address, or, if unknown, his last address.
If the landlord fails to return the balance of the security deposit and itemized accounting within 30 days of termination of tenancy, the tenant can sue for the return of the deposit. In addition to awarding damages equal to the entire deposit, the court can award extra damages for a total award of up to double the amount of the deposit.
If the amount owing is under $7,500, the tenant can sue in small claims court without a lawyer. If the amount is under $10,000, the tenant can sue in justice court, also without the assistance of a lawyer, however, a lawyer's assistance is suggested. Contact your local Justice Court for information regarding how to file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court.
Does a landlord have to pay interest on my security deposit?
No, in private housing, a landlord does not have to pay interest unless your lease requires it.