12 Things a Bad Landlord Might Do to Keep Most or All of Your Security Deposit

The security deposit the most important thing residents are concerned about once moving from their old place. “When will I get it? How long does it take? Why am I being charged all these fees?” Upstanding property management companies usually provide you with an itemized list of charges before you move in, so you know how much you will be charged for things like nail holes and a new paint job. However, a private owner isn't so transparent. He or she doesn't tell you how much anything is going to cost before you move. “I have to get a quote for that...I don't know it all depends...I'll have to check with my guy...” While you wait for the approximate amount of your security deposit refund, you might want to find out what the going rate might be for repairs.

One. Overcharge for nail holes and other markings on the wall.

You know how many pictures you hung on the wall and so does the landlord. He or she is thinking, “This will need to be repaired and painted...that will cost me how much? Well, I will just take this out of his security deposit.” What some landlords won't tell you is that a do-it-yourself job of filling holes with something like toothpaste or painting the whole apartment some original color, only makes matters worse for you. A good landlord will tell you upfront “if you do will cost you...” It's best not to make any repairs or upgrades yourself unless you have asked permission and know what you are doing or it will cost you and if the landlord is a bad one, he or she won't communicate any of this to you.

Two. Forget what he or she said about general wear, “Don't worry about that stain on the counter top or the wall. I won't charge you.”

Sure, the landlord won't. To be certain, you should have taken a picture before you moved in and sent him or her a long list of those “general wear” markings.

Three. Charge you for every stain on the carpet that can't come out and/or carpet burns and holes you didn't do.

You know the spill in the corner that you hid with an area rug? What about the burn in the carpet or the hole? Well, if you didn't list that in advance (that is if you know you didn't do it) your landlord will charge you for it. Did you take pictures of the carpet or note that before you moved in the place?

Four. Inflate the cleaning fee.

You remember how you left the place, don't you? Well the landlord might have a short memory when it's time to pay out your security deposit. If you didn't make certain to clean out everything including some things left behind by a previous resident or even the maintenance staff, he or she might charge you for that too. But you say, “I was just being nice. I left a nice chair that I thought she could use for the next resident.” Doesn't matter, it's garbage and although you thought you had an understanding with her, suddenly she is all business when it comes down to her, I mean, your money.

Five. Keep you in the dark about what it costs to repair something.

You know how much it costs to repair a door, buy a new screen, or something else you may have damaged. However, your landlord has “expensive taste,” he or she may not say anything about the contractor he or she will be using to make repairs until you see the deductions out of your security deposit.

Six. Hold your security deposit past the time required by a state law.

If you don't know when you are supposed to get your security deposit back, you best research for tenant laws in your state. The bad landlord is hoping you don't know too much about the law, this way he or she can do what he or she wants with the security deposit for how ever long he or she wants. “I think I don't like the way she spoke to me on the phone, I'll hold her security deposit until she calls for it!”

Seven. Expect you to pay for repairs that he or she was already notified about before you moved out.

You conversed with the landlord about the things you noticed in the apartment. Notice “conversed” not “sent letter to landlord,” now he or she is charging you for things you already told her about. Your word against her's in a court of law.

Eight. Accused you of leaving the apartment unclean.

Although this point is similar to one discussed already, the difference is the landlord is blatantly saying, “You didn't clean the apartment, so I took out X amount of dollars out of the security deposit.” There are general charges, because for the safety of other residents she has to go over your cleaning work, but then there are hyped up charges just to take more money out of your security deposit. You can dispute the charges with photographs and price quotes from area cleaning companies in a court of law.

Nine. Interview other residents to build a case against you in case you have threatened to sue he or she.

Sometimes you just can't let the left hand know what the right hand is doing. “So you are going to sue me! Well, I know some people who will help me counter sue you!” If you were using drugs in the apartment, making loud noises and the police were called, or doing other things that caused a problem in the apartment complex, a landlord just might use the counter-suit to pay you back! Be sure your “i” is dotted and your “t” is crossed!

Ten. Lie about correspondence and/or phone call.

Let's say you told the landlord you were moving out in thirty days. You sent he or she an email then followed up with a phone call. The closer it got to time for you to move, the landlord starts to have amnesia, “I think you gave me a 25 day notice, didn't you?” You know that he or she is mistaken, and you claim you gave he or she plenty of notice. The idea behind this is to reduce the security deposit refund by penalizing you for not giving the landlord proper notice. Be sure you keep copies of all correspondence and for suspected bad landlords, record phone call conversations if need be.

Eleven. Reduce your security deposit for holding keys although you may have told him or her you need them for a day or two after your move-out date.

You may think, “I will hold on to my apartment and mail box keys a little longer because I can't get a truck until a certain time to get the rest of my stuff and I don't know if all my mail will be transferred over.” Not a good idea! A good or bad landlord will surely charge you for staying in the apartment even if you aren't living there, but just holding on to the keys passed the move out date. This isn't a bad landlord move, but it can be if you aren't reminded that he or she will take money from your security deposit everyday that you don't hand over your keys. “You should have told me!” you yell at the landlord. “You should have read your lease!” Meanwhile, you thought that you had a good relationship with the landlord by telling him you needed the keys. “Nothing personal, just business.” The landlord says.

Twelve. Charge you for things that other residents have done.

You might have a parking space, and noticed other residents have been parking in it while you are gone. Their cars leave stains on the concrete and a few times they hit the wall surrounding your parking space. You may have told the landlord about those bad tenants, but he or she claims, “I forgot.” The next thing you know you are receiving a deduction out of security deposit for damages and cleaning fees you didn't do.

Now that you have 12 possible scenarios that a bad landlord might inflate to keep most, if not all, of your security deposit, be sure that you have a solid case against he or she by: having photographs in your possession, video, audio recordings such as a voice mail messages, and any correspondence related to your case if you should choose to sue.

N. McGuire

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Over 20 years office work experience, six years completed college coursework, background in print media and communications, recognized for exceptional attendance and received merit increase for past job performance, self-published author and part-time entrepreneur, Internet marketing and social media experience. Interned for non-profit organization, women's group and community service business. Additional experience: teaching/training others, customer service and sales. Learn more at Nicholl McGuire and Nicholl McGuire Media