A Not Refunding Security Deposit Letter is sent by a landlord to a tenant informing them their security deposit is not being returned due to deductions equaling or exceeding the security deposit. This letter also provides itemized information for any deductions made and a request for payment if the deductions exceed the deposit amount.
Note: Some states require a landlord to provide this letter before withholding a tenant’s security deposit.
Why Write a Not Refunding Security Deposit Letter?
When a lease agreement expires the landlord must finalize several items to comply with the terms of the agreement. One important task is returning a tenant’s security deposit. However, unpaid rent and the condition of the property may result in the landlord keeping a tenant’s security deposit. Here are some specific reasons to write a Not Refunding Security Deposit Letter to a tenant:
- Itemize Deductions – If a landlord is going to withhold a security deposit, it is important to provide the tenant with an itemized list of those deductions. This will help the tenant understand why they are not receiving their deposit. It also serves as supporting documentation if there is a legal dispute over the tenant’s security deposit not being returned.
- Additional Money Owed – This letter may also request payment because the cost of the deductions exceed the tenant’s security deposit.
- Legal Requirement – In some states, it’s illegal to withhold a tenant’s security deposit without providing a detailed explanation.
What to Include in a Not Refunding Security Deposit Letter
This letter will provide details on why a tenant’s security deposit was not returned and should include the following:
- Tenant’s name and current address
- A friendly greeting to the tenant
- The Lease End Date – The landlord should check the first box if the lease ended on the date provided in the lease agreement. The landlord should check the second box for leases terminated early
- An introduction to inform the tenant of the purpose of the letter
- The date the tenant provided their security deposit
- Security deposit amount (include the amount with interest if state law requires the landlord to maintain the security deposit in an interest-bearing account and provide it to the tenant)
- The date the lease agreement was signed
- The rental property address
- Briefly describe the actions taken to determine that the security deposit will not be returned
- Itemized Deductions – The letter should itemize the deductions that led to keeping the security deposit. Those can include things such as past due rent, late fees, and damage to various parts of the rental property
- Total Deductions – The total of all itemized deductions
- Less Security Deposit – This is the current amount of the security deposit
- Total Owed – This is the additional amount owed to the landlord, if any
- A closing paragraph that indicates any additional information included with the letter such as proof of damages and a request for the additional amount owed to the landlord
- Landlord contact information
- Landlord’s name and signature
Any documentation that will support this letter should be included. For example, you can provide a copy of the inspection that was performed, pictures that highlight any damages, invoices for repairs, or proof of unpaid rent and fees with a copy of the landlord’s rent ledger.
When to Send a Not Refunding Security Deposit Letter
If a landlord is not returning a tenant’s security deposit, this letter should be sent by their state’s deadline for returning a security deposit. See the chart below for every state’s requirements for returning a tenant’s security deposit.
|State||Time to Return Security Deposit|
|Alaska||14 days with proper notice, 30 days without proper notice, or if the landlord is deducting any amount from the security deposit|
|Colorado||1 month unless a longer period is provided in the lease agreement (no more than 60 days)|
|Connecticut||30 days, or within 15 days of receiving the tenant’s forwarding address (whichever is later)|
|Florida||15-60 days (depending on whether the tenant disputes any deductions)|
|Indiana||30-45 days (depending on whether the tenant disputes any deductions or if the landlord provided any statements or receipts)|
|Kentucky||30-60 days (depending on whether the tenant disputes any deductions)|
|Maine||30 days for a written agreement and 21 days for tenancy at will|
|Montana||10 days (30 days if there are deductions)|
|New Hampshire||30 days|
|New Jersey||30 days|
|New Mexico||30 days|
|New York||14 days|
|North Carolina||30 days|
|North Dakota||30 days|
|Rhode Island||20 days|
|South Carolina||30 days|
|South Dakota||14 days (45 days for an itemized accounting if requested by the tenant)|
|Washington D.C.||45 days|
|West Virginia||60 days, or within 45 days of the occupancy of a new tenant (whichever is shorter). The deadline can be extended by 15 days if damage exceeds the amount of the security deposit and the landlord has to hire a contractor to fix it|
|Wyoming||30 days (additional 30 days allowed if there are deductions due to damage)|
This letter should be delivered in a way that requires signature confirmation when received, such as certified mail. Even better if it is sent by restricted certified mail which requires the tenant to be the only person that can sign for the letter.
The letter should be sent to the tenant’s forwarding address. If none was provided, it is advised to send it to their last known address and via email to ensure receipt. A copy of this letter should be filed with a notation of the means used to deliver the letter and any other relevant information.
Reasons for Deducting from a Security Deposit
There are several reasons a landlord can deduct a tenant’s security deposit. Most lease agreements will provide those specific reasons. When a lease term ends it’s important to conduct a final inspection and make sure all required payments have been made. Reasons a landlord can deduct from a security deposit include:
- Unpaid rent
- Property fees
- Late fees
- Unpaid utilities
- Cost of repairs beyond normal wear and tear
- Cleaning costs – This should not include general house cleaning. A tenant is only obligated to return the property in the same condition as when the tenancy began. Cleaning costs may only be deducted from a security deposit if the rental property needs excessive cleaning (e.g. pet stains).
- Early termination fee
- Any costs associated with the breach of a lease, including unlawfully terminating a lease before it expires.
- Brokerage fee
- Restore, replace or return personal property
If a landlord has deductions that are less than the total security deposit, a landlord should detail this in a Security Deposit Return Letter.