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Rental Property Maintenance Myth #5: What Security Deposits Cover

Security deposits are a cause of contention for many tenants and landlords, and most of the time the reason is a lack of communication or understanding of what the deposit is actually for. There are two common myths related to deposits:

  1. Tenant Misunderstanding: the security deposit is for the last month’s rent, right?
    While many landlords ask for a deposit that equals a month’s rent, that does not mean those funds are earmarked for the last month’s rent. Unless the tenant and landlord specifically work this out together beforehand in writing, the last month’s rent is expected to be paid in full, and the security deposit will be handled separately. Even if the security deposit is to be returned in full, it should not stand-in for the last month’s rent.

Landlord Misunderstanding: the deposit can be used for any make-ready, between vacancy repairs and cleaning costs.
Wrong again. The deposit is intended to cover unpaid rent and perform needed repairs or cleaning that result from more than normal wear and tear. Some landlords intentionally stretch this rule; others do so out of ignorance. Regardless, the security deposit should not be used to replace 15 year old countertops or to paint the home after 7 years. Unless severe damage was caused by the tenants’ intentional or negligent behavior, these standard wear-and-tear repairs are NOT to be paid for with the deposit

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