Security Deposit Limits
Renters typically are required to pay a security deposit as part of the lease agreement. Usually, this amount is equal to one month's rent, but security deposit limits are established by state law. You typically pay this right before you move in.
The deposit is returned to the tenant upon the termination of the lease, minus any amount needed for repairs or other costs passed onto the landlord. Normal wear and tear on the rental property, such as carpet being slightly worn after a year, should not affect getting the deposit back.
The landlord's use of the security deposit is limited to the tenant's obligations and responsibilities as spelled out by the lease agreement. It can usually be used to cover unpaid rent.
After You Move Out: Time Limit For Deposit Return
Most state security deposit laws specify a time limit in which landlords must give a security deposit back to a departing tenant. For example, landlords have:
- A one-month limit for returning deposits in Colorado
- Just 14 days in Arizona
- In Montana, deposits must be returned within ten days if there are no deductions (30 days if there are deductions)
Other provisions of security deposit statutes (laws) may include walk-through inspections and escrow account requirements.
Types of Tenants' Security Deposits
Below are the general categories of security deposit limits, and the states that adhere to each. Use this as a general resource. But, always check your state and local laws and your rental agreement for any modifications, as there are often exceptions to these general rules.
Exceptions can include:
- You have pets
- You are renting for a long duration
- The apartment is furnished
- You plan to use certain types of furniture (such as waterbeds)
Some security deposits are in interest-bearing accounts, so you can make a small profit if there is no damage to the rental unit.
States That Allow Depositing Up to One Month's Rent
- Alabama and Delaware (applies to leases of 12 months or more)
- District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, and New Mexico (applies to leases of 12 months or less)
- New York, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania (unless it's your first year of renting, then the limit is two months)
- Rhode Island and South Dakota (deposit the same amount as your first month's rent)
States That Allow Depositing Up to One and a Half Month's Rent
- Arizona, Michigan, New Jersey, and North Carolina (for month-to-month tenancies)
States That Allow Depositing Up to Two Month's Rent
- Alaska (where the rent is under $2000/month)
- Arkansas, California (unfurnished), and Connecticut (for people under the age of 62)
- Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, and North Carolina (for tenancies longer than two months)
- Virginia (just two month's rent)
States That Allow Depositing Up to Three Month's Rent
- Nevada and California (furnished)
States That Have No Limit on the Amount of the Security Deposit
- Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming
Security Deposit Limits: Additional Resources
Click on the links below to learn more about security deposit-related matters:
- The Difference Between Last Month's Rent and a Security Deposit
- What Can a Landlord Deduct From a Security Deposit for Cleaning and Repairs?
- Security Deposit Laws Can Help Get Your Deposit Back
Have Questions About Security Deposit Limits? Ask an Attorney
As you can see, there are limits to the amount that a landlord can require as a security deposit. Renters can easily be unsure about the security deposit limits in their state or have other concerns regarding the lease agreement. Know that you have the right to take your landlord to small claims court over real estate issues like this.
It may be a good idea to speak with a local landlord-tenant attorney. They will be able to answer your questions and make sure all of the lease terms comply with state laws.