Tenants, Landlords, and Leases

UNDERSTANDING RENTAL AGREEMENTS: Lesson 3

Why Does the Landlord Want Me to Pay a Security Deposit?

  • A security deposit helps the landlord feel secure that you will pay for any damage you cause – because you give the landlord money for damage you have not caused yet. The landlord will save the money and can use it if you damage the property and it needs to be fixed, or he can keep it if you move out still owing some rent.
  • The written lease usually outlines the way a security deposit will be handled, and what the tenant (the person renting the apartment) must do to get it back.
  • The owner must return your deposit to you within 10 days after you move. If not, the landlord must tell you in writing why you won’t get it back.
    • You can give a written argument if the landlord plans to keep your deposit so you will have proof of what you argued, if needed later in court.
  • If the owner spends your deposit after you move, you must get an accounting of how it was spent.
  • To fight a landlord to get a deposit back, you must take him to small claims court. The Tennessee State Courts website can help you. See www.tncourts.gov
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