Do You Need to Pay Your Security Deposit?

When Is The Landlord Allowed To Deduct From Or Keep My Entire Security Deposit?

A landlord may deduct from your security deposit if the landlord has suffered financial damages in which you are responsible for. Examples would include: not paying rent, not paying utilities, or damaging the rental unit beyond “normal wear and tear.”


What Constitutes “Normal Wear And Tear?”

A tenant is typically allowed to add “normal wear and tear” to a unit without being charged. This is defined as: deterioration which occurs based upon the use for which the rental unit was intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises/equipment by the tenant or invited guests. That being said, some landlords define cleaning and repairs differently within the lease, so it’s always best practice to get the details on your state’s rules for returning deposits such as: the types of deductions your landlord can make, the deadline for returning the deposit, how the demand letter process works, and how to gather supporting evidence for your case if you have to build one.


Does The State Of Colorado Limit How Much A Landlord Can Charge A Tenant On A Security Deposit?

Simply put, no. In Colorado, there is no limit on charges to a security deposit. In fact, if you you cause more damages than your security deposit can cover, you may be liable to pay extra for the damages.


Is It Possible To Have A Nonrefundable Security Deposit?

No, this type of arrangement would be illegal, as a security deposit is always considered the property of the tenant. The only time that a landlord can use these funds is to repair damages to the property that were the fault of the tenant.


What If The Landlord Decides To Keep All Of My Security Deposit?

For a landlord to withhold any portion of a tenant’s security deposit, the landlord must provide a written, itemized statement along with the portion of the security deposit that is to be returned to the tenant. This itemized statement must specifically list every reason for deduction with the amount deducted for that item. If a landlord makes a deduction from your security deposit without providing a written statement for that portion of the security deposit deduction, then the landlord may forfeit their right to keep the amount of money that they’ve withheld (but not the entire deposit). Therefore, always be sure that every cent taken out of your deposit is accounted for within the cleaning documents.


What Is The Deadline For Returning A Security Deposit?

Under Colorado law, a landlord must return the tenant’s security deposit within one month, unless the lease agreement specifies a longer period of time (which can be no more than 60 days). If a hazardous condition involving gas equipment requires the tenant to leave, the landlord must return the deposit within 72 hours.


So, Can I Sue My Landlord?

Before going to court, you will have to email, write, or call to demand a refund of the security deposit. Some states require a ‘7-day demand letter’ to be sent to the landlord before you can begin a small claims case, so you will have to check locally what the procedure is with demand letters before proceeding. Small claims court is typically the most appropriate setting for disputes involving money. The maximum small claims court limit varies from $4,000-$10,000 depending on the state (In Colorado, the limit is $7,500). In some cases, it’s worth scaling back or splitting the amount of your claim in order to qualify for small claims court jurisdiction. It’s always a good idea to talk with an attorney to discuss your options, as this can be a crucial decision for the lifetime of your case.


Tips For Incurring The Least Amount Of Losses From Your Security Deposit After Moving Out Of A Rental Unit:

1.     Make sure that you provided proper notice of your moving out as dictated in the lease agreement.
2.     Remove all of your furniture from the rental property before you leave.
3.     Clean the rental property thoroughly (this means mopping the walls and ceilings as well!).
4.     Walk-through the premises with your landlord and discuss what needs to be fixed or cleaned before you move out.
5.     Take pictures of every room in the rental unit, as well as any possible damages that you may incur.
6.     Leave your landlord a forwarding address so they can return your security deposit in a timely manner
7.     Ask your landlord to provide you with written notice that: there are no damages, you have returned the keys, and that the landlord has your new address on record.
8.     File a change of address with the post office.


Be sure to read our other articles on legal property issues found here

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Revised: Feb. 11, 2016, 12:13 a.m.
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