Off-Grounds Services: Security Deposits and Tenant Rights
Getting any portion of your security deposit back will require work on your part. Several things that might help:
- Become familiar with the landlord's requirements, preferably by a direct conversation in which you take notes, but certainly by reading the Tenant Rules/Handbook/Guidelines that should be given to you when you sign your lease.
- Arrange for a move-in inspection to be completed within your first week in the location (preferably with photos of any existing issues). A copy of the inspection report should be given to the landlord and one maintained in your "apartment" file.
- Have a conversation with people who have rented from your landlord before.
- Ask Student Legal Services to review your lease and give you advice about the security deposit information contained in the lease.
The legal maximum on security deposits as defined in the VRLTA (Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act) is not to exceed two months' rent. (see § 55-248.15:1 VRLTA)
There is no such thing as a non-refundable deposit. That being said, a lease may include a statement about a non-refundable pet deposit. This is really a charge for treating a house because a pet lived there, and this would not be prohibited by the VRLTA if the amount is reasonable.
Security deposits may be applied by the landlord to: (see § 55-248.16:1 VRLTA)
- the payment of accrued rent, including reasonable charges for late payment of rent specified in the rental agreement;
- payment for repairing any damages beyond reasonable wear and tear; or
- other charges as provided in the rental agreement.
The VRLTA has this to say about move-in inspections: (§ 55-248.11:1 VRLTA) Inspection of premises.
The landlord shall, within five days after occupancy of a dwelling unit, submit a written report to the tenant, for his safekeeping, itemizing damages to the dwelling unit existing at the time of occupancy, which record shall be deemed correct unless the tenant objects thereto in writing within five days after receipt thereof. The landlord may adopt a written policy allowing the tenant to prepare the written report of the move-in inspection, in which case the tenant shall submit a copy to the landlord, which record shall be deemed correct unless the landlord objects thereto in writing within five days after receipt thereof. Such written policy adopted by the landlord may also provide for the landlord and the tenant to prepare the written report of the move-in inspection jointly, in which case both the landlord and the tenant shall sign the written report and receive a copy thereof, at which time the inspection record shall be deemed correct.
Move-out/Lease termination inspections are addressed also by the VRLTA (§ 55-248.15:1) Security deposits.
Upon request by the landlord to a tenant to vacate, or within five days after receipt of notice by the landlord of the tenant's intent to vacate, the landlord shall make reasonable efforts to advise the tenant of the tenant's right to be present at the landlord's inspection of the dwelling unit for the purpose of determining the amount of security deposit to be returned. If the tenant desires to be present when the landlord makes the inspection, he shall so advise the landlord in writing who, in turn, shall notify the tenant of the time and date of the inspection, which must be made within 72 hours of delivery of possession. Upon completion of the inspection attended by the tenant, the landlord shall furnish the tenant with an itemized list of damages to the dwelling unit known to exist at the time of the inspection.