A Security Deposit Demand Letter is a letter sent by a tenant to a landlord demanding the return of their security deposit as required by their lease agreement and/or state law.
Why Write a Security Deposit Demand Letter?
When a lease agreement expires one item a tenant looks forward to is the return of their security deposit. However, landlords don’t always return a tenant’s security deposit in a timely fashion. Beyond the obvious reason of getting your security deposit back, here are some other specific reasons to write a Security Deposit Demand Letter to a landlord:
- Documentation – Writing a letter regarding the return of your security deposit provides written documentation of the tenant’s request. If a landlord later claims that they returned the deposit or never received a demand, this letter can be used by a tenant to dispute a landlord’s claim.
- Legal Requirement – In some states, a tenant is required to notify their landlord about not receiving their security deposit before filing a lawsuit.
- Dispute the Landlord’s Claim – In some cases, a landlord may have sent a Security Deposit Demand Letter with certain deductions from the security deposit. In more extreme cases, a landlord may send a letter that their security deposit will not be returned. A demand letter from the tenant can be used to challenge the landlord’s decision to withhold some or all of the tenant’s security deposit.
What to Include in a Security Deposit Demand Letter
This type of letter in which a tenant demands that a landlord return their security deposit should include the following:
- Landlord’s name and business address
- A generic greeting to the landlord
- General Lease Information – The tenant should begin the letter with some relevant lease information including the security deposit amount, the date the lease agreement was signed, the rental property address, and the date the lease was terminated
- Security Deposit Requirements – Next, the tenant should indicate their state’s requirements for returning their security deposit
- Relevant Facts – The tenant should include a paragraph to confirm that they were current on their rent payments and left the property in good condition
- Security Deposit Violation – The tenant should inform the landlord that they have not received their security deposit in the time required by state law
- Payment – The letter should make a specific demand for their security deposit and provide information about where to mail the deposit
- Closing – The tenant should close the letter by warning the landlord of potential legal consequences for not returning their security deposit as well as an offer for the landlord to contact them if they have any questions or concerns
- Tenant’s contact information
- Tenant’s name and signature
- Tenant’s forwarding address for the security deposit
Any documentation that will support the tenant’s letter should be included. For example, if the tenant and landlord conducted a move-out inspection that showed there was no damage to the property, the tenant should include a copy of that inspection with this letter. If a landlord claims to be withholding the security deposit for unpaid rent, copies of canceled checks for rent payments can strengthen the tenant’s demand.
When to Send a Security Deposit Demand Letter
Before sending a Security Deposit Demand Letter, it is important for a landlord to know how long a landlord has to return their deposit. A tenant should send this letter when a landlord has not returned their security deposit by their state’s deadline. 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)|
In some states, a tenant must provide this written demand before they can sue their landlord for their security deposit. 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 landlord to be the only person that can sign for the letter.
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 a Landlord can Deduct from a Security Deposit
Before a tenant sends a demand letter, they must understand that there are valid reasons for a landlord to deduct from a security deposit. Most lease agreements will provide these reasons. To ensure a prompt return of their security deposit, a tenant should make sure that a final inspection is conducted and that they are present during the inspection. Here are some reasons a landlord can deduct from a security deposit:
- 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 indicated they are deducting from a tenant’s security deposit, the tenant may have to prove that their reasons are not justified. The Security Deposit Demand Letter should provide any information that may challenge the landlord’s claims.