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Security Deposit Return Timelines

Security Deposit Return form

When you rent a house or apartment, you'll most likely be asked for a security deposit, along with your first month's (and perhaps also last month's) rent before you move in.

The deposit is the landlord's way of making sure that they have money to cover the cost of damages to the rental unit, cleaning, and/or unpaid rent. Note, however, that the landlord can't charge you for normal wear and tear of the rental property.

That's a lot of money to pay at once, but keep in mind that you will most likely get back all or most of the amount of the security deposit at the end of the lease term. States recognize the need for renters to get their deposit back as soon as possible when they move out and have to pay another deposit for their next rental.

Your security deposit return and deposit amounts are governed by state laws. These laws outline how long your landlord has to return your security deposit (along with other deposit-related provisions).

How Much Time Does a Landlord Have to Return the Security Deposit After the Tenant Moves?

Here are some guidelines on how long a landlord has to return a tenant's security deposit. Always check your state's laws, because many time-periods have exceptions to these general rules:

14 days: Alaska, Arizona, Hawaii, Nebraska, South Dakota, Vermont, Washington.

20 days: Delaware, Rhode Island.

21 days: California, Idaho, Minnesota.

30 days: Arkansas, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Wyoming.

One month: Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana.

45 days: District of Columbia, Indiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Virginia.

No deadline: Tennessee, West Virginia.

Others: Alabama (35 days), Florida (15 to 60 days, depending on whether the tenant disputes the deductions), New York ("a reasonable time"), Oregon (31 days).

While "a reasonable time" is tricky with respect to New York's security deposit return deadlines. This is decided on a case-by-case basis in small claims court (should it get to that point).

Tenant's Rights When a Landlord Doesn't Return the Security Deposit

If your landlord fails to return your security deposit or you believe your security deposit return is overdue, give your landlord written notice by letter or email before taking your case to court. Also keep in mind that most state laws establish a limit on how much a landlord may charge for a security deposit, typically equal to one month's rent.

Related Resources on Security Deposits

Learn More About Security Deposit Return Timelines From a Lawyer

It was hard enough just coming up with the money for the security deposit when you signed the lease last year. But now you're trying to put a deposit on a new place and you're still waiting to get it back. What can you do? If your landlord hasn't complied with state law, and you've already sent them a letter asking for payment, you may need to file a claim. Get legal advice today by talking to a skilled landlord-tenant attorney near you.

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