A Quick Guide to Security Deposits

by Gregory A. Goetz, Esq.

Security deposits are oftentimes one of the most hotly-contested issues in landlord-tenant disputes. Many tenants have been evicted from apartments multiple times and are well aware of the ins and outs of the eviction process. With that awareness comes knowledge of matters relating to security deposits and, notably, how to take advantage of a landlord who comes to court unprepared to prove his or her damages. Accordingly, it is vital that landlords take the time necessary to properly document damage to the rental unit.



The following is a list of best practices for landlords that, if followed, will maximize the landlord’s likelihood of success in court:

  1. Perform a move-in inspection with your tenant, marking all items which the landlord would charge against the tenant’s security deposit. Have the tenant sign the inspection checklist and make a copy for the landlord to retain.
  2. Perform periodic walkthroughs during the lease term to inspect for damage.
  3. Perform a move-out inspection with your tenant and request that the tenant sign the checklist upon completion. Note on the checklist if the tenant refuses to sign.
  4. Take pictures of all items discovered via the move-out inspection.
  5. Save copies of invoices for all work done to the unit to repair damage caused by the tenant.
  6. Provide copies of the invoices with the itemized list of deductions for the tenant.


Following the foregoing best practices covers two very important issues for landlords.¬†First and foremost, it ensures that the landlord has properly documented damages, thereby eliminating some of the “he said she said” that is present in all such disputes.

Secondly, it allows the landlord to show the court that he or she has been upfront with the tenant throughout the security deposit process. Not only has the landlord provided the tenant with the statutorily-required itemization of damages, but that the landlord has also taken the extra step of providing invoices for the listed work.

Originally published at SES

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