Landlords almost always require a security deposit as part of a rental agreement. This is the landlord's assurance that he will be covered in the event that the tenant damages the property. The amount of a deposit varies, and is commonly equal to one month's rent.
Benefits of a Deposit
Paying a security deposit before moving in to a rental unit is beneficial to the tenant as well. If damage occurs, the security deposit is an upfront payment that covers the costs of repair. The deposit acts as collateral, similar to medical or automobile insurance.
Holding a Deposit
By law, a landlord can hold a security deposit for a period of time after the tenant moves out. That period is generally fewer than 30 days. If a landlord has not returned a security deposit after 15 to 30 days, it is imperative to follow up with her to find out what is going on. Damages are deducted, and the balance is paid back to the tenant. If damages are severe, the landlord has the right to keep the entire deposit. Tenants can be held responsible for damages that extend beyond the deposit.
A security deposit is just that--a deposit to cover any damages made to the landlord's property. You may not use the deposit to pay for rent or utilities. Take the necessary precautions to prevent damages to the property. Have the carpet cleaned, spackle any holes in the walls from pictures and paint all walls back to the original colours. Doing these things yourself will maximise the amount of money you get back. Without a lot of damages to assess, processing time will be a lot shorter.
On the day of move-out, the landlord and tenant should do a walk-through together. The tenant has the right to request one. When the landlord goes through the home, she will check the carpet for excessive stains, paint damage, smoke damage, dust, mould, broken blinds, light fixtures, appliances, etc. The cost of any needed repairs will be assessed and subtracted from your deposit. If no damages are made, both you and the landlord should sign the final walk-through paperwork to ensure delivery of your full deposit.
As long as no damage to the property was made and there is no rent owed upon move-out, you are entitled to receive the full deposit. If a landlord has not broken down what damages the deposit would be used for and given a summary or receipt of the deposit and has not returned your deposit, you should immediately file a claim to recover it.