What Is a Security Deposit?

Categories: Apartment Hunt, Moving

The Gist

When renting, one of the costs you’ll have even before you make your first rent payments is the dreaded security deposit. It’s pretty straightforward and a good apartment won’t be too much or too much of a hassle. Each place has different ways of approaching a security deposit and even state laws can vary, but for the most part, we’ll show you what to expect when it comes to security deposits.

What Is It?

First, what even IS a security deposit? A security deposit is a sum of money a new resident gives their property manager or landlord before moving into a rental property. It’s usually an additional month’s worth of rent and they can legally use or deduct from a security deposit to pay for damages to the property by a tenant or can be used in the case that a resident skips rent. This means before a tenant moves in, they’ll typically pay one or two month’s rent before setting foot on the property. If a tenant has a poor credit score, it’s possible they’ll have a higher security deposit. The silver lining here is you can get it back.

Now, a security deposit isn’t just extra lining for a landlord’s pockets. There are reasons why they take a security deposit before you move in. It’s typically held in a separate account than the normal bank account of the landlord and can be used by them. It’s like a fall back for owners against unpredictable tenants with unpaid rent.

What Isn’t It?

It’s also important to note that it is NOT insurance. Renter’s insurance is a different payment altogether and will not be done with your landlord. This also means that in the event of damage not caused by a tenant, the security deposit cannot be used. These cases include natural disasters like flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes, etc. or unrelated damage like a fire in the building. This, however, does not extend to guests in your rental. If a guest damages the property, that still allows a landlord to use your security deposit.

How Do You Get Your Money Back?

Finally, the big one: How do I get my security deposit back? When you move out of a place and have sent notice and paid your last rent, as long as no damage has been done to the property, you will get your full security deposit back. Most states require the landlord to return it to you 30 days after you’ve moved out. It could be the full amount or a reduced amount if the owner had deducted anything from it for minor repairs.

So no, the landlord isn’t trying to con you out of more money. A security deposit is a necessary fallback for owners to protect against unpredictable tenants. It’s kind of like a down payment that you can get back (a great point if you’re trying to decide between renting or buying). Make sure when you first move in to take pictures and note anything damaged or the initial wear and tear. Just pay your rent and always read your rental agreement. This will help ensure you get the full amount of the security deposit back when you’re ready to move on.

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