Tag Archives: security deposit

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.


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


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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Moving in to a Rental Home

By Alexx, staff attorney

‘Tis the season for moving, if you live in a town or city with a significant number of college students. In Tucson, home of the University of Arizona, nearly 4/5 of U of A students live off campus in the neighborhoods surrounding the university. Even if you’re not a student, you might find that there are a lot of deals to be had for fabulous rental homes or apartments this time of year.

Whatever the reason and whatever the season, it’s a good idea to be prepared going in to a move.

Rule of the day:  Know what you’re moving into.

You may have found the brand new spacious home on the outskirts of town or a charming duplex built that still sports its 1940s charm. Whatever the type or condition of the home, it’s important to understand what your new rental comes with, what you’re responsible for fixing or maintaining, and what happens if something goes wrong.

The two biggest tools in your move-in tool box are going to be a move-in inspection or assessment sheet and photos, lots of photos.

The purpose of the inspection and photos is to document the condition of the property as it was when you started to live there. It gives you and the owners a way to keep track of what damage, if any, is caused to the property while you live there. Without an inspection, tenants and owners have no documentation to make their case for who is responsible for damage that shows up at the end of the lease.

The Move-In Inspection or Assessment

Some landlords/property management companies will conduct a move-in inspection with you. During the inspection, the landlord or staff member will walk through the property after you’ve signed your lease and note the condition of the house as it is before or just after  you move in. Usually there is a sheet or log book, something in which the inspector can make notes about anything that’s already in disrepair.


1) Ask to present during the move-in inspection (or ask to have one if it’s not normal procedure).

2) If your landlord doesn’t use a log or inspection sheet, bring your own. There are examples all over the web or you can make your own.

3) Spend some time filling out the inspection sheet. Keep a copy for yourself and send the sheet and photos off to your landlord.


There’s a reason the cliche “a picture’s worth a thousand words” has stuck around so long. In situations like a move-in, it’s true.
You could write down on your move-in assessment sheet that the floor is dirty and the baseboard is missing, but following that up with a photo really drives the point home.

You really can’t take too many photos.

All in all, the point of being alert and doing your homework is to make sure that your understanding of what you’re moving into matches your landlord’s.

A little bit of work when you move in can help you make sure that you get your security deposit back at the end of your stay.

But wait- What happens if you’ve already moved in and haven’t done any of the steps above?

Do them now.

Documenting the condition of your home within a few weeks of your move-in is certainly better than having no proof that it was ever in good condition. Start now.

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