Returning the rent deposit

7 Replies

Recently purchased a triplex with tenants already in the property, thus I inherited their security deposits. One tenant had to leave but had been in the property for 4 years. Their security deposit was $450, they want their security deposit back but there are so many repairs needed and I have no idea if the damages were from them or not. They did smoke in the unit and I am wondering if I should give them back the deposit or keep it. 

Totally new to this so any advice would help.

I took over run down, deferred maintenance apartments. My practice was always to give inherited tenants their complete deposits back. 

1. I had no record of their check in, and

2. I was so happy to get them out and renovate.

Their are some landlords who don’t cash flow and as such they have already (mentally) spent their deposits. They have a very narrow definition of “wear and tear” out of financial desperation.

Say good riddance and capitalize on the vacancy.

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@Bryan Laufenberg

If there is no move in form filled out when they moved in then you have no proof of what the condition was.  You will need to return the earnest money unless your state/local law states otherwise.

@Bryan Laufenberg Check what your state deposit returning laws are before rushing and doing anything. 

I know here in CT we have 30 days to give a tenant their deposit back minus any deductions once they vacate and provide a forwarding address.

You want to take your time going through the unit and noting anything that is damaged beyond normal wear and tear and then take it from there. 

You can only deduct for things you know they did. I would reurn the whole deposit. If smoking wasnt prohibited in the lease you can not chage them for it.

I agree with the others. Over 4 years, you expect some maintenance to be needed (carpets, paint, etc). Plus, if it was run-down prior, it’s not worth the potential legal headache for something that you might not be able to probe in front of a judge.

As a rule of thumb, what I do with my own rentals and what our management company does with new properties we get under management, is we have a move in report filled out by the tenant. 

We tell them from today onward is what we will go on to judge the condition of the apartment upon move out. Yes, people have gotten away with damaged caused previously but that is the fault of poor management prior to us taking over and you cannot just assume someone damaged something without proof of what it was like before. Especially in tenant friendly NJ.