6 Reasons Landlords can Deduct from a Security Deposit
- Published: Jun 10/2019
- Last update: Mar 11/2022
- 7min read
- Views: 9,124
Many tenants struggle to get their entire security deposit (or damage deposit) back when their lease agreement ends. Some renters think that hovering the floor and wiping the dust before leaving is enough, and then are surprised when they get security deposit deductions. Landlords usually have a long inspection list detailing the tenant’s obligations prior to moving out.
So if you want your moving experience to go as smoothly as possible, knowing what your landlord can and cannot deduct from the deposit, will surely help.
Deposit reduction is normally determined on the lease agreement and the particular landlord-tenant laws in the state/country. In most cases, a detailed inventory list is made as a part of the contract before a tenant moves in. This list contains all items in the property, along with the condition of the walls, carpets, furniture, appliances etc.
The landlord checks the condition of the property according to the inventory when the time comes for the tenant to leave. The rental property should be in the same conditions as in the beginning.
So for your convenience, we have made a list of the most common reasons why landlords usually deduct money from a deposit:
Your landlord can keep part of the security deposit, or even all of it, in case you break the agreement. Usually, this is in order to cover any possible costs caused by the breach.
For example, if there is a clause for early termination of the contract, you have the obligation to stick by these terms. Normally it takes weeks and even months, to find a replacement tenant and this can cause financial issues for the landlord.
Landlords have the right to make deductions for missing items. Carefully check the inventory list before you move out to make sure that nothing is missing…
You can definitely lose your deposit if you are late on paying the utility bills or if the rent is not paid. The landlord will probably have to keep the security deposit in order to cover those debts.
Unfortunately for many people, pets tend to make a mess of an apartment or a home. So if you have a dog or a cat, the chance of your landlord deducting money from the deposit is even bigger. Any damage caused by the pet or a nasty lingering smell in the common area can be a reason for a lost deposit.
Any changes to the framework of the rented property without your landlord’s permission could count as damage, so always think carefully before making any pet structures.
If no damage was done, the landlord can’t deduct money just because a pet was in the house. This applies even if the tenancy agreement does not allow to keep pets.
All domestic work such as cleaning the property before moving out is the tenant’s responsibility. You have to leave your apartment or house in the same conditions as when you moved in. If you choose to neglect this step, the landlord can retain the money necessary to cover the cleaning cost. And will surely aim for high-end services rather than mind the price after tenants leave, while all costs on cleaners will be withheld from the tenancy deposit.
If your property has a patio deck, garden area, driveway or a parking lot, all these areas are either assigned as in the housing agreement. Don’t forget that they fall in your tenant cleaning responsibilities too! For a full list of everything that needs to be cleaned at the end of your tenancy agreement, see our end of tenancy clean checklist.
Usually, it is a landlord responsibility to repaint every few years for basic maintenance. This is why they normally can not deduct the cost of paint from the deposit. However, if you painted the walls or have made a significant damage to the paint, your landlord has the right to use the security deposit to cover the repainting.
Typically, landlords may charge tenants for cleaning or restoration to the rental units. However, a landlord cannot use your security deposit to cover the costs of ordinary wear and tear. And the longer you have been living in a property, the more wear and tear can be presumed.
Upon moving in, both the tenant and the landlord should conduct a walk-through inspection according to the inventory list. The best practice is to take pictures and document the condition of the property and its internals. Any existing damage should be recorded prior signing the inventory list.
Ordinary wear and tear is damage that naturally occurs in property due to aging and utilization. This is contrary to damage caused by tenants as a result of negligence, carelessness or abuse.
In the guide below we are going to provide examples of normal wear and tear vs damage caused by the tenants.
|Subject||Normal Wear & Tear: |
|Excessive Tenant Damage: |
|Walls||Nail holes, chips, smudges, dents, scrapes, or cracks in the walls||Large holes in walls from abuse, accidents, or neglect. To many of nail holes, that need patching and repainting.|
|Water damage on the wall from hanging plants.|
|Mould due to bad construction work||Mould due to lack of regular cleanings and ventilating|
|Paint||Unapproved paint colours or unprofessional paint jobs.|
|Slightly torn or faded wallpaper||Unapproved wallpaper, drawings, or crayon markings on walls|
|Faded paint||Scrubbed paint from intensive rubbing|
|Windows||Cracked window panel from a faulty installation or building settling||Broken windows from the action of the tenant side|
|Countertops||Natural discolouring or peeling||Cuts or burns on countertops|
|Flooring||Scuffed varnish on wood floors from regular use||Scraped from pets or chipped wood floors|
|Dark patches on hardwood that have lost their finish with the time||Water stains on wood floors and windowsills caused by windows being left open during rainstorms|
|Faded paint or peeling exterior||Sticky cabinets and interiors|
|Loose grouting and tiles||Missing or cracked bathroom tiles|
|Faded colour or peeling||Holes, burns or tears in linoleum|
|Carpet||Carpet faded or worn thin from walking||Holes, stains, or burns in the carpet. Food stains, urine stains, and leaky fish tanks stains, pet damages.|
|Others||Clogged sinks or drains caused by||Clogged sinks due to the tenant’s|
|old pipes||improper usage – like hair, diapers, food, etc.|
|Mirror’s beginning to “de-silver” (black spots)||Mirrors caked|
|Worn gaskets on refrigerator doors||Broken refrigerator shelf or dented front panels|
|Replacement of an expensive fluorescent light bulb||Replacement of most common light bulbs|
|Loose handles or toilet seat||Broken toilet seat, tank or handle|
|Watering can that is left in the yard||Trash pile in the yard, outdoor furniture left on the patio|
|Hole in the wall where a door handle bumped it||Door off its hinges|
|Stains and discolouring on old porcelain that has lost their protective coating||Grime-coated bathtub and toilet|
No matter if you are a first-time landlord or have been in the business for a while, there some mandatory maintenance and cleaning duties that need to be met according to the most tenancy agreements.
This includes things like paying utility bills, obeying rules about keeping pets in the home and generally following the agreement you have signed off.
The only exceptions that the law allows are the so-called “wear and tear” damages that come naturally with time.
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