What Is a Security Deposit for When Renting a House?


When looking for a home to rent, know and understand some of the terms and documents you'll be dealing with and signing, including information regarding security deposits. Many property owners want the first and last month's rent and a security deposit before you can move in. Find out about your rights, what's involved in the security deposit, and what you have to do to get your security deposit money back when you vacate the property.


  • Security deposits are a monetary guarantee that your rent will be paid and that the property owner has funds available for repairs in the event you in any way damage or destroy their property. Security deposit laws differ by state. When approaching property owners or management companies, ask about their security deposit regulations. Security deposits are usually the same amount as your first month's rent, but can't be any higher, according to law in most states.


  • Property owners may use a portion of your security deposit when you vacate the premises to shampoo the carpets, or patch holes and apply a new coat of paint to the walls. They may also use the deposit to repair damage to appliances, sinks, floor tiles, doors and windows. The property owner can deduct monies from the security deposit to repair any damage done by renters, their pets or their guests, as well as wear and tear on the property. The property owner may also deduct any monies owed on late rent or unpaid utilities from the security deposit.


  • Review the security deposit agreement and understand what it says before signing and turning over monies to a property owner. For example, a security deposit agreement or receipt should include, at the minimum, the amount you've paid for the deposit, the date it was received, and the manner in which the deposit is to be used. The statement or receipt should also be signed by the property owner or agent.

Deposit Return

  • Property owners are required to refund security deposits within 30 days of the tenant vacating the property. Any monies taken out of the security deposit must be defined in a statement specifying what dollar amounts were used for which repairs. The statement defining repairs must also be sent to the former tenant within 30 days. The property owner is also required by law in many states to supply a list of damages or repairs to the tenant within three business days following termination of a lease or notice of vacancy termination.

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