Security Deposits

by Alexx, staff attorney.

There are a few basic things to know about security deposits. The rules for them are found in the Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act.

A security deposit is money a tenant gives to a landlord to hold on to, to help motivate the tenant to honor their rent agreement and to help cover the landlord in case the tenant breaks the agreement. A security deposit is not the same thing as a pet deposit, a cleaning fee, or a redecorating fee.

WHAT CAN A LANDLORD CHARGE FOR SECURITY DEPOSITS?

The most a landlord can ask for in a security deposit is 1 and 1/2 month’s rent.

WHAT HAPPENS TO THE SECURITY DEPOSIT AT THE END OF THE LEASE?

At the end of the lease, the landlord has 14 business days (so, not counting weekends and holidays) to return the tenant’s full security deposit OR whatever’s left of the security deposit after the landlord makes reasonable deductions to cover damages that are outside of the normal wear and tear that’s expected to happen over time. The deductions the landlord makes must be in writing and must be itemized. In other words, the landlord has to write out a list of the damages and charges. For example:

Total Security Deposit- $1000.00.

  • Broken window pane–  $50.00 to replace glass
  • Burn marks and missing chunks of carpet– $200.00 to replace 20 carpet squares.
  • Plaster and drywall, labor and materials to fix giant person-sized hole in living room wall– $350.00

Deductions Taken Out- $600.00

Amount to Return to Tenant– $400.00

If the landlord hangs on to the security deposit without providing a written explanation of deductions, the landlord can be liable for double the amount that the landlord should have given back.

So if a tenant provides a $1000.00 security deposit and is eligible to get it all returned to her but the landlord wrongfully holds on to it and doesn’t provide the explanation for why, the tenant can recover the $1000.00 PLUS $2000.00 in damages for a total of $3000.00.

In the scenario above where there was damage to the rental, the tenant was still eligible to get back $400.00. If the landlord fails to give that back, the tenant can recover the $400.00 plus $800.00 for a total of $1200.00.

While it sounds simple, it’s not necessarily an easy process. If you’re having a hard time struggling over the security deposits, you may want to speak to an attorney who can help you.

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