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Apartment Tenant Rights: Rent Deposit Tips

The market is now a renter's market. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that apartment vacancies hit a 30 year high. Landlords are scrambling to entice tenants to move into their rentals. This leaves room for more apartment tenant rights than ever before. The Wall Street Journal quotes Victor Calanog, director of research for Reis as saying, "If you are renting a place, now might be a good time to renegotiate that lease." It is also a good time to understand what a rent deposit is, and how to make sure that you get it back from your landlord if you decide to move on to greener pastures. Here is a primer on what you need to know about your rent deposit.

A Rent Deposit Is An Assurance

This is an indication that rent will be paid by the tenant and that other requirements of the rental lease will be fulfilled (such as paying for damage caused by the tenant).

Last Month's Rent Is Not the Same As a Security Deposit

Last month's rent is a pre-paid month of rent given to the landlord for the last month of your lease. The amount of the last month's rent and of the security deposit each are usually one month's rent, and in some states they can not be greater than one month's rent. You can not use the two interchangeably. For example, a landlord can not switch the last month's rent as a rent deposit. A tenant can not claim that a rent deposit is last month's rent.

Make Sure You Get A Receipt For Both

The landlord should give you a receipt for both payments. The receipts should include the following information:

  • The amount you paid
  • The date you paid it
  • What type of payment it was
  • The name of the recipient of the payment
  • If an agent is dealing with the payments, the name of the actual landlord
  • The signature of the landlord or agent

Please keep in mind that the landlord may be required by state law to pay interest on those amounts. Inquire on whether you are entitled to this.

Getting that Rent Deposit Back

The landlord is required to pay back your pre-payments within a fixed amount of time after you terminate your lease. This is typically 30 days. Keep in mind that your landlord can deduct damage repair from this amount, however, the landlord may not deduct for reasonable wear and tear. The landlord must provide you a list of all of the damages, and proof of the costs to repair them within 30 days after your lease ends.

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