First and Last Month’s Rent: Security Deposits Explained

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You have found the perfect apartment or house to rent and are ready to sign the lease agreement. Before you do, make sure you carefully read it over, especially the section relating to the required security deposit. It is important for you to be aware of the landlord tenant act in your state, so that you know what a tenant’s rights are as far as the lease and security deposit are concerned (before signing anything). A security deposit can take a pretty large bite out of your wallet, so being educated on what rental agreements are allowed to stipulate is critical.

What is a Security Deposit?

First, let’s understand what a security deposit is. A security deposit is money collected by the landlord at the signing of the lease in addition to first month’s rent. The security deposit is a protection for the landlord, and it will be used in the event that you do not pay your rent upon moving out or you cause damage in the rental unit. Now, let’s discuss this a little more.

When Can the Landlord Charge My Security Deposit?

When you move out of your rental unit, if you do not pay your last month’s rent, the landlord will charge your security deposit for that amount. Some landlords will give you permission to do this; perhaps if they have recently seen the unit, and determined it to be in good condition. However, if there is damage to the unit exceeding what is remaining of the security deposit after rent charges have been applied, you may be held liable for the additional amount.

When you move out, if the landlord determines that there is more than normal wear and tear damage to the rental unit, the landlord will charge your security deposit. Normal wear and tear includes such things as the following:

  1. Minor cleaning
  2. Repainting due to faded paint (of original color present upon move-in)
  3. Mini-blind replacement
  4. Lightbulb replacement
  5. Worn carpet or other flooring

Damages that you will be charged for are generally things that you caused to occur, such as a hole in the wall, a heavily stained carpet, excessive dirtiness, a room that needs to be repainted or a broken window.

How Much Is the Landlord Allowed to Charge?

Tenant’s rights concerning security deposits are different in every state. It is important to familiarize yourself with the landlord tenant act in your state. Generally, security deposits can be the equivalent of first and last month’s rent, one month’s rent, or one and a half month’s rent. There are also different requirements in each state regarding the return of the security deposit. In some states it must be returned within 30 days, and others within 2 weeks.

Before you sign anything, you should always read it through. This is especially true with rental agreements. Take the time to look up the landlord tenant act in your state on the Internet so you know your rights. Also, after moving into the rental, take pictures of any existing wear and tear so that you cannt be held accountable for it.

Emily Gojko: I am a writer, marketer, and manager with a strong background in real estate development and management. I am also a native New Yorker with an obsession for home design shows, so I have personal and professional experience making the most of small spaces, and dealing with good and bad living situations.

2 Responses to “First and Last Month’s Rent: Security Deposits Explained”

  1. July 25, 2012 at 11:43 am, Julie said:

    do you know of anywhere that Will lend you the first months rent and deposit for a rented house? And you could pay back in installments.


  2. September 12, 2012 at 6:29 pm, Anonymous said:

    get a job!


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