Security Deposits

Often the security deposit is the first major exchange of money between a new tenant and a landlord. To protect this deposit, you must clearly understand the landlord's terms and conditions regarding the deposit, and its return when the time comes.

The landlord is required to state the terms and conditions regarding the security deposit on the lease or on your receipt for the deposit.

If you live in the District of Columbia:

When you move out of the apartment, the landlord has 45 days to return your deposit or to notify you in writing if he or she intends to apply the money toward damages in the apartment. If your landlord does this, s/he then has 30 days from the day s/he notified you to return whatever money is left over and provide you an itemized statement of the repair costs.

The DC Housing Regulations also authorizes the landlord to make an inspection of the apartment three days before or after your tenancy ends, but must notify you in writing of the inspection at least 10 days before it occurs.

Your security deposit accrues interest and the law dictates that the interest rate on the deposit be equal to the passbook interest rate for the escrow account holding the deposit, or that it shall accrue at a rate not less than 5 percent per year.

If you live in Virginia:

A landlord cannot ask for a security deposit of more than two month's rent.

Within 45 days after you move out of the apartment, your security deposit must be given to you. If there are any deductions, you must be given a written list with the amount of any deductions, damages, and/or charges.

Security Deposits in Shared Housing:

The security deposit can be a special problem in shared housing. Landlords are seldom willing to inspect whenever one person leaves a group lodging. They often hold the total security deposit until all original lease signers have vacated. Therefore, tenants need to reach their own agreement about how they will handle the return of individual shares of the deposit.

Protect your security deposit by clearly understanding the landlord's terms and conditions regarding the deposit, and its return when the time comes.