As a landlord, no one likes to think of the possibility that you would have to keep your tenant’s deposit. In a perfect world, every tenant would move out in a timely fashion, keeping the apartment in the perfect condition it was originally given to them. But as we all know, we most definitely do not live in a perfect world, so we decided to make a definitive list of which reasons give you the right to keep a tenant’s deposit.
1.) If they break their lease. The lease is a written agreement going over each and every aspect that you both agree upon, but it doesn’t give you the right to keep the entire deposit. You can legally only keep the amount of money you would need in order to cover whatever costs the broken lease would cause. If the deposit was $1400, the rent was $700 and they moved out a month early, you can only keep half of the deposit in order to cover the missed rent for the last month.
2.) If they fail to pay rent. Nonpayment of rent is actually considered a violation of the lease, allowing you to keep all or at least a portion of the deposit to cover the rent. However, it’s also important not to allow a tenant to stay any longer than their deposit would cover. If you can’t get the rent after one month, it’s unlikely that you’re going to get any rent after six months.
3.) If there is damage to the property. If a tenant has caused damage to your property, a portion of the deposit can be kept to cover the cost of the damages. But it’s also important to understand the difference between damage and a little bit of wear and tear. The tenant is not responsible for natural wear and tear. Normal wear and tear would include small nail holes in the walls, mildew in shower tiles, dirty grout, loose handles on bathroom cabinets or walkway stains on carpet.
4.) If they leave the place dirty. Your tenants are responsible for leaving the apartment in as close to the condition as when they originally moved in, and since you had the entire place professionally cleaned before any tenants moved in (you did have the place professionally cleaned, right?), they are responsible for cleaning it when they move out. Leaving furniture that you have to move can also be counted as cleaning fees.
5.) If they owe you money for utilities. In some agreements, the tenant would pay the landlord money for utilities. If they have failed to pay you, you can keep the necessary portion of their deposit in order to cover the costs.