Security deposits exist to protect you, the landlord. When a tenant fails to uphold their end of the lease agreement, these deposits can help offset the costs associated with tenant missteps. While not all security deposits are large enough to cover the kinds of damage some tenants leave in their wake, the money can help recoup the most common kinds of losses linked to tenant conflicts. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends holding onto security deposits for the following reasons:
When a Tenant Damaged Property
The most literal reason not to return a security deposit is to use the money to make repairs to damaged property. Even the most careful tenants will often cause minor damage to an apartment or rental home. This is called normal wear and tear, and tenants shouldn't be penalized for such damage. On the other hand, serious damage like torn carpeting or broken windows can be grounds for holding onto a portion of a security deposit.
When a Tenant Terminates Their Lease Early
Leases help protect landlords and tenants alike from having the rug torn out from under them when they least expect it. When a tenant needs to terminate their lease early, their landlords are often left hanging with a vacant apartment and no one to fill the financial hole left by the tenant. A security deposit can help cover the costs associated with finding a replacement renter. It can also help update the apartment when it becomes unexpectedly available for rent.
When a Tenant Leaves Behind a Mess
Most folks try to leave their apartment in the same condition they found in upon move in, but others are less careful. Whether they are in a rush to move or simply don't meet the same cleanliness standards as you, tenants can leave behind a mess when they move out. This is especially true when kids or pets are involved. If you need to shell out for a deep cleaning, you can withhold a security deposit to ensure the costs are covered.
Every state has their own set of laws surrounding security deposits, so make sure to cross reference your local policies before withholding a tenant's deposit. Still, there are many good reasons to do so, so don't be afraid to hang onto the cash when necessary!
- Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management
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