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security deposit

The rules are simple; the complications are never ending

Spring and summer are moving season for many renters, but leaving your old rental home can be more costly than just paying for the move.

Making sure your security deposit follows you to your new home can make a difference. Here's some tips:

a. terminate your rental agreement. If you have a month to month agreement, you need to provide the landlord a 30 day notice to terminate on or before the rent due date. (ORC 5321.17)  If you have a lease, you need to follow the termination process outlined in the lease -- could be 30, 45, or 90 days notice -- read your lease!
b. repair what you broke, restore what you changed, clean like you are cleaning up for Mom Fix it/clean it yourself will be cheaper than having the landlord do it for you as long as you do a good job. 
c. take photos, videos, do a walk thru with a witness. Even if landlord won't do a walk thru inspection with you ask a friend to do the inspection, noting the condition of walls, floors, ceilings, fixtures and appliances.  Sign and date the document and make sure you know where to find your witness if/when you need to ask her/him to testify. 
d. pay your last month's rent with a witness or get a receipt.  Now and then tenants think, I'll just live out my deposit because I know I won't get it back.  DANGER.  Landlord could bring an eviction action that will show up on your credit report even if landlord does take your security deposit. 
e. leave a written forwarding address.  It's the law (ORC 5321.16)  If you don't want your landlord to know where you are moving give her/him an address where you may be confident that you will receive the check.
f. give up occupancy-turn in the keys (garage door openers, access gate or cards)-with a witness (other than the manager).  Don't slip them thru the mail slot of the management office and expect a good outcome.
g. be ready to wait 30 days.  30 days from the termination of the rental agreement and the giving up of occupancy....which ever is later.
h. file promptly in small claims court.   Filing in small claims when the facts are fresh and the witnesses are available is important.  Don't dawdle around calling the office and being told "the check's in the mail."

 The basics
  • landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant within 30 days after tenant terminates the rental agreement and gives up occupancy of the premises
  • if landlord makes a deduction for unpaid rent or damages in excess of normal wear and tear from the security deposit, landlord must provide a written itemized statement of what was deducted and why
  • if landlord fails to return deposit, or fails to deliver written itemized statement of deductions or if tenant disagrees with a deduction, tenant may file a small claim to recover a wrongful withholding.  if tenant left a written forwarding address, tenant can claim double the amount that was wrongfully withheld.
What's going on?
  • it's been more than 30 days and tenant did not receive security deposit or tenant did not receive an itemized statement of deduction from SD or tenant disagrees with a deduction
  • tenant terminated and gave up occupancy but did not leave a written forwarding address.
  • property changed hands while tenant occupied the unit and old landlord did not return the security deposit
Social change opportunities
  • create policies for a manager/tenant "walk thru" with a checklist so that tenants know what could be a damage problem and given time to correct

Learn more

Non security deposits: deposit to hold a unit

Security Deposit Bonds (hint-it is not a deposit)

Application fees and credit check fees

Security deposit FAQ