Arkansas Security Deposit Law

QUICK FACTS
  • Standard Limit / Maximum Amount: 2 month’s rent (read more)
  • What Can Be Deducted: Unpaid rend & cost of damage to the unit (read more)
  • Time Limit for Return: 60 days after end of lease (read more)
  • Penalty if Not Returned in on Time: Double the original deposit (read more)
  • Tenant’s Deadline to Claim Funds: 180 days (read more)

Purpose. Security deposits are like safety nets. They ensure compensation for any loss that the landlord might incur because of the tenant’s acts. It covers for incidents like damage to the property, termination of the lease without notice or non-payment of rent.

Legal Basics. The maximum security deposit Arkansas landlords can take is the cost of two-months’ rent, from which they can deduct unpaid rent and damages from tenant’s breach of their agreement. However, the limit doesn’t apply if the landlord has less than 6 units and isn’t leasing through a manager. The landlord must return it within 60 days. Otherwise, the landlord may be made to pay a penalty of double the deposit.

Maximum Security Deposit Charge in Arkansas

Arkansas landlords cannot charge security deposit that is more than two months’ rent. However, if the lease falls under the exception, the limit will not apply.

Exceptions to Security Deposit Rules

Under the Arkansas code, the limit and the rules relating to security deposit we will discuss below will not apply if the landlord satisfies these requirements:

  1. If the landlord owns less than 6 properties or units; and
  2. If the landlord does not have a manager handling the lease or lease-related activities like collecting rent

Both of the requirements above must be satisfied. Otherwise, the rules will apply.

Allowable Deductions on Security Deposit in Arkansas

An Arkansas landlord may deduct the following from the security deposit:

  1. Unpaid rent
  2. The cost of damages which the landlord has suffered because of the tenant’s noncompliance with the rental agreement

Can the deposit be used by the tenant as last month’s rent? Not usually, but it can be done if, and only if there is a written agreement is between the parties to do so.

“Normal Wear and Tear” vs. Damage in Arkansas

  • “Normal wear and tear” refers to the deterioration of the property that happens when the property is used as it was meant to be used and only when that deterioration occurs without negligence, carelessness, accident, misuse, or abuse by the tenant or the people the tenant brings there. They are minor issues that occur naturally like aging and expected decline as a result of everyday living. These can include gently worn carpets, loose door handles, fading wall paint and flooring, stained bath fixtures, lightly scratched glass, dirty grout and mold that occur naturally.
  • “Damage,” on the other hand, is deterioration or destruction that is the tenant’s fault, either through deliberate acts or as a result of negligence during the tenancy period. With respect to those chargeable to security deposits in Arkansas, it refers to the damage that resulted from non-compliance with any of the tenant’s obligations as such under the law. (read more on tenant’s obligations).

Check out our article on wear and tear vs. damage to get a better idea of the difference.

Returning Security Deposits in Arkansas

Time Frame: Landlords are required to return the security deposit, or what’s left of it after deductions, within 60 days following the termination of the tenancy. If he has made charges on it, he is also required to provide an itemized list of the same within the same 60 days.

The landlord can return the deposit and deliver the notice for deductions any reasonable way he can for as long as the tenant gets it. But if he there isn’t a more practical way, or if he prefers it, the landlord is considered to have fulfilled his obligation if he mails the deposit with the written notice of deductions via first-class mail to the last known address of the tenant.

Unclaimed Deposits: After 180 days from the date of mailing the letter containing the deposit and notice, if the letter is returned to the landlord and he is unable to locate the tenant after reasonable effort, then the security deposit is forfeited and becomes the landlord’s property. Tenants are responsible for providing landlords with details of where or how they can be reached to ensure the delivery of security deposit.

Failure to Return Security Deposit as Required: If the landlord refuses or fails to return the security deposit within the 60 days, the tenant stands to recover the following:

The security deposit, or what’s left of it after allowed deductions

  1. Damages equal to 2 times the amount the landlord must return
  2. Costs of the suit
  3. Reasonable attorney’s fees

That means, the landlord may possibly end up handing the tenant more than 3 times the security deposit: the original security deposit owed, plus double that, plus costs and attorney’s fees.

However, the landlord will be liable only for costs and the amount erroneously withheld if the security deposit was withheld:

  1. Because of an error that occurred even if he had procedures in place intended to avoid such errors; or
  2. Because he and the tenant have a genuine dispute or disagreement on the amount owed.

An example of an error under the first exception would be if the landlord thought the tenant did not pay the last month’s rent because the record of that payment went missing. The error should not have occurred due to the negligence of the landlord.

Security Deposits and Tax Filing in Arkansas

How the security deposit will be treated tax-wise depends on whether or not the landlord gets to keep it (or part of it).

Taxable income: Security deposits are not automatically considered income when the landlord receives them. The IRS advises to not include security deposits as income if the landlord may still be required to return the same. They only become taxable income when the landlord no longer has any obligation to refund them. For example, if the security deposit was given in 2019 but was only forfeited in 2020, then the landlord should only include it as income in 2020.

Reporting security deposit as income: Whether or not security deposit should be reported as income and when to do so will depend on what it is being applied to or used as. Below are 3 simple rules the IRS has suggested to follow:

  1. If the deposit is forfeited due to a breach of the lease or applied to unpaid rent, then the amount kept should be declared as income in the year it was forfeited or applied.
  2. If the security deposit is used to cover expenses that are chargeable to it, then the landlord should only include the part of the deposit used as income if the landlord includes the cost of repairs as expenses. If the landlord doesn’t include them as expenses as a matter of practice, then there’s no need to include the part of the deposit kept to cover them as income.
  3. If there is an agreement between the parties to use the deposit or part of it as the final month’s rent, then the landlord should include it as income when the same is received.

Additional Rules & Regulations in Arkansas

Receipt Requirements: The landlord is not required to provide a receipt for the security deposit in Arkansas.

Security Deposit Interest in Arkansas: Arkansas does not require security deposits to be deposited into an escrow account or any other account that generates interest. Neither is the landlord required to pay interest on the security deposit.

New Property Owner’s Responsibility: If the rental property is sold, the buyer inheritsthe liability of refunding the tenant’s security deposit when the tenancy ends. He should make sure that all the security deposits with the previous landlord are accounted for and are transferred to him because he will be responsible for returning them to the tenants when their respective tenancies end.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much can a landlord charge for a security deposit in Arkansas?

The maximum security deposit a landlord can charge in Arkansas is 2 months’ rent. However, this limit will not apply if the landlord owns less than 6 properties or units and does not have a manager handling the lease or lease-related activities like collecting rent.

Can you use the security deposit as last month’s rent in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, a tenant is not usually allowed to use the security deposit as last month’s rent. However, if there is an agreement between the landlord and the tenant to use the security deposit for last month’s rent, then the tenant can do so.

What can a landlord deduct from a security deposit in Arkansas?

A landlord in Arkansas can legally deduct the following from the security deposit: unpaid rent and the cost of damages which the landlord has suffered because of the tenant’s noncompliance with the rental agreement.

Can a landlord charge a cleaning fee in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, a landlord is allowed to charge a cleaning fee but only insofar as necessary to bring the unit to the state it was in when the tenant moved in. Beyond that, the landlord can only charge cleaning costs against the security deposit if the rental agreement allows doing so.

What is considered normal wear and tear in Arkansas?

Normal wear and tear in Arkansas is defined as a matter of case law or practice. The statutes do not specifically provide a definition but generally, it is deterioration that occurs naturally as a result of the tenant using the property as it’s designed to be used without fault or negligence from the tenant.

How long does a landlord have to return the security deposit in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, a landlord has 60 days from the move out date to return the security deposit as well as a written statement of deductions if there are any. The landlord may deliver the notice personally or by mail.

What happens if a landlord does not return the security deposit in Arkansas?

If a landlord in Arkansas does not return the security deposit within 60 days from the move out date, the landlord loses the right to make any deductions and may be liable for a penalty of double the amount of the security deposit plus costs of suit and attorney’s fees.

If the landlord opted to mail the security deposit and the written statement and the letter is returned to the landlord undelivered, the tenant has 180 days from the date of mailing to claim the security deposit otherwise the same will be forfeited in favor of the landlord.

Are security deposits taxable in Arkansas?

Security deposits in Arkansas aren’t taxable until they become the landlord’s property. This happens when the security deposit is applied to rent, forfeited, or applied to charges allowed under the lease.

However, when they are used to cover expenses incurred by the landlord due to the tenant’s fault, like the cost of repairs or unpaid utilities, they are not always taxable. The IRS advises to only report them as income if the landlord also reports the costs they covered as expenses. Otherwise, there is no need to report them as income, in which case they will not be taxed.

For additional questions about security deposits in Arkansas, please refer to the official state legislation, Arkansas Code § 18-16-301 to § 18-16-306, for more information.