When do you give a deposit back?

10 Replies

Hey guys and gals I have a quick but important question. When do you give a renter their deposit back? What criteria must they meet or what do you look at before giving it to them? I'm currently wondering what to tell a new tenant about this, because I do not want to just say the unit "must be clean and undamaged" because that is very broad and could lead to an argument if they see it as clean but I don't. I would like something more concrete that would leave no room for arguments or disagreements. Any and all comments and stories are welcome thank you!


You will give the deposit back to them if the property is left undamaged. 

The property doesn't have to be "clean" but there cannot be anything damaged in or on the property that was their fault. 

We have 30 days per our rental agreement to return the SD.  In practice, we return the SD after we have had time to thoroughly inspect (and photograph) the property (without the tenant present) and check with utilities to make sure there is no outstanding balance --   usually within two weeks.  You will also need time to price out and replacement items. 

I  try not to do walk -throughs with the tenants present, because  I have had tenants try to hide damage and then distract me from finding it.  One tenant had knocked holes in the exterior of the bifold closet doors.  She had to doors open so you could not see the damage. and chattered on and on about she had cleaned the closets. We only noticed the damage when we closed the closet doors.

Be sure to check the refrigerator for damage.  Tenants often overload the door shelves and break the shelf railings.

This is a good opportunity to give your applicant a letter outlining what your expectations are in order for them to get their security deposit back, and what your charges are for damages beyond wear and tear.

Hi @Michael Guzik ,

That will be based on your local area in reference to when it must be done legally. Many places have must be within 30 days. So I would start with a pre inspection checklist they sign off on. This has door handles working properly, hinges on cabinets secure, drawers open and close properly, Sink Clean and sanitary etc (Go through each room and make a list for them to sign off on). Now when they give notice they are going to move out you give them another copy so they know what the criteria is. Let them know that you will be walking through the property after they give you the keys and their deposit will be returned within 30 days minus any repair items needed. Another suggestion is to take pictures of everywhere (digital storage is cheap) to keep for reference. You can also give them all of the pictures when they give notice if you want. But having them for court later is essential.

Good Luck!

When we get a new tenant we give them a move in checklist and have them inspect the house and sign it so that they can't claim it was that way before they moved in.  It is very specific with comment sections for each room and the basement .  In connecticut you must give your tenant a security deposit accounting statement within 30 days of the last day of the lease or they can sue for double the amount.  Most landlords and tenants don't know this but just incase I make sure they get it within 30 days.  

My state is very specific about the timeframe it needs to be returned in. I also hand out a copy of our checklist we use for the exit walkthrough and go over it with the tennant when they sign the lease that way there will be no suprises if i need to keep anything when they leave.

@Antoine Martel Thanks for the comment! I didn't consider to think of anything undamaged on the property so thank you for saying that! 

@Bettina F. Thank you so much for the comment and real world example. That is exactly why I asked this question because I know there are shady people out there like that and I didn't want to make the mistake of giving the deposit and then finding something the next day or something.

@Mike Cumbie Thanks for the comment! I hadn't thought of taking pictures and doing a before and after type thing but that is very clever and will definitely save me a lot of head ache so that you for that idea!

Hi @Michael Guzik CT requires security deposit to be refunded within 30 days.  I would check with a local realtor or attorney about your state.  I would not recommend giving it back the same day, as others have said, you may not find something broken/missing until 24-72 hours later.  

Set the expectation up front and you will have limited headaches when they move out.  You can be as specific as you want with your expectations in my opinion.  I would create a list like others have mentioned with key areas such as oven/stove must be cleaned, fridge, shower area, etc.  The unit must be given back the way it was provided usually covers everything in a nut shell.  You can even list pricing on your check list so there is no questions on their part when they move out.  This is easy for a studio like I have, for larger homes it may be difficult, as there are many parts.   

@Michael Guzik I have an eight page checklist showing what needs to be cleaned. I go through the checklist prior to move in and ask them to complete it on move-out. I have them sign and agree all the items were cleaned at move-in. I take detailed photos and videos of the property, so there is no dispute on move-out as to the condition during move-in. I open and close every door on video, including kitchen cabinets. Tenants will claim stains or broken doors were like that when they moved in. Nothing shuts down a dispute faster than having proof of condition. Even the nicest, most honest people will lie when they move out to avoid paying. 

On the flip side, you need to be fair with your charges. You can only charge fair market rate for cleaning and replacement cost must take into account wear and tear. You shouldn't profit from security deposit deductions. The cost is only to remedy the damage.