Security Deposit 101
Guide on how to get 100% of your Security Deposit back from your Landlord
Basics of the Security Deposit
The Security Deposit is design to protect the landlord if there are any damages upon vacating their rental home property. The landlord is defined as the person on the lease agreement. It could be the homeowner or a 3rd party such as a property management company. It is usually equivalent to one months rent. It is payable after the application process and acceptance by the landlord to rent the home. The deposit belongs to the tenant all the way through the lease agreement and the landlord has no right to spend or use that money for any reason. It should be deposited into an account that is totally separate from the landlord's business or personal account. Oklahoma Landlord Tenant Laws state the Landlord is to refund it back to the tenant within 30 days from vacating the property.
The Landlord can legally deduct money from the deposit for the following reasons:
- For unpaid rent
- For cleaning the rental unit when the tenant moves out
- For repair of damages, other than normal wear and tear, caused by the tenant or the tenant's guests
- For breach of the lease agreement terms including default of the lease
The majority of disputes between a Landlord and Tenant that go to court are related to the Security Deposit. It is due to upon vacating the home the Tenant believes the Landlord has taken out more of the Security Deposit than legally necessary.
Both Landlords and Tenants have rights and obligations that are spelled out in the Oklahoma Landlord Tenant Act – the ultimate law of the land in Oklahoma regarding anything and everything with rental home leases and rental issues.
Here is a link to download the complete Oklahoma Landlord Tenant Act. Section 115 specifically states the obligations with the Security Deposit. Download Here.
A quick summary:
The purpose of the Deposit is for the Landlord to protect themselves with any potential damages, beyond normal wear and tear, with the property upon vacating by the Tenant.
The Security Deposit legally belongs to the Tenant throughout the lease term. The Landlord should deposit it into an escrow account and cannot be used by the Landlord to cover any expenses until after vacancy of Tenant.
Landlord must refund the Security Deposit within 30 days after move out. Landlord must provide itemized detail with invoices of all expenses withdrawn from the Deposit.
If damages to property by Tenant are higher than the dollar amount of Deposit Landlord has the right to pursue the difference in the county court.
The Security Deposit can not be used for rent repayment including the last month of the lease term.
How to get 100% of your Security Back
It begins with the move in inspection. It is essential that the tenant and landlord walk through the property together and document every preexisting condition. Interior and exterior of the property and include pictures. This inspection needs to be acknowledged by both parties with their signature of acceptance and both parties need to keep a copy.
Read the lease terms regarding the move out obligations. There should be no lease terms that are not within the law of the Landlord Tenant Act.
Submit a proper notice in writing. It should be at least a 30 day notice but would not hurt at all if it is a 60 day or 45 day notice. The notice needs to give a specific date and usually it is the last day of the calendar month.
Clean, clean and clean. The home should be in the same condition or better as it was whenever you moved in minus normal wear and tear. Cleaning includes all appliances, windows and blinds, fixtures and especially the kitchen and bathrooms. If the home was not fully cleaned upon move in such as the oven not cleaned document it on your move in inspection and ask the Landlord what is your responsibility regarding the oven or whatever else not cleaned upon your move out. If they say it needs to be cleaned then ask the Landlord to clean the oven that day of move in or shortly after.
Carpets need to be professionally cleaned and shampooed with pet deororizer. Carpets cleaning is the most common of all the distupes. A receipt from a professional carpet cleaner must be provided to the Landlord. Renting a DIY carpet cleaner from a big box store is not sufficient. That will not really clean the carpet that well.
If the Landlord is a professional Property Manager you may ask for the carpet cleaner they generally use and hire them. That way the PM know it is done and no questions are asked.
Bottom line do not give the Landlord any legitimate reason for them to keep any portion of the Deposit.
If you feel the Landlord has withheld a portion of the Deposit without a legitimate reason than gather all your documentation including your move in and move out pictures. Go to the county court house and file a claim in the small claims court. Yes this will be a hassle but may be worth it if the dispute is around $200 or more. You will have court cost expense but that can be added to the total claim.