Tenant's security refund - Posted by Chyna

Posted by Sailor on June 27, 2011 at 17:46:27:

I have had cats for many years, & there can be major problems. Mine (Devon Rexes) are very dear to me, but just today I had to throw out my walking shoes because an as-yet-unidentified darling decided the underbed shoe chest I’d pulled out during a floor install was a made-to-order litter box. Even the most well-behaved kitties get old & their bladders fail, usually in just those places you would least like to find urine. Even my solely-inside cats occasionally pick up fleas tracked in on shoes. (Fortunately, my cats are bald, so I can spot a flea across a crowded room, before we have a serious infestation,) Some cats have sensitive tummies, & I have seen cat barf eat the finish right off laminate floors.

At the very least, tenants w/pets should be responsible for a move-out professional pest control treatment. However, my rental agreement requires a hefty financial penalty if I find evidence of an illegal pet.


Tenant’s security refund - Posted by Chyna

Posted by Chyna on June 25, 2011 at 08:13:19:

I have three questions about security refunds…

Tenant’s lease does not specify when I will return security deposit. I told her I would issue refund within 45 days of vacating apartment and she is furious. Is this an unreasonable amount of time and if so, what is customary?

I painted before tenant moved in and she was there for two years. She left the place in such bad shape (grease, markings on walls, holes, etc) that I had to re-paint before I could re-rent. Can I deduct the entire cost (or part)of painting from her security?

Some ceiling light fixtures are missing covers and parts although they still work. They were intact when she moved in. Is she responsible for the cost of replacing these?

There are other issues (like she had a cat I didn’t know about in violation of my no-pet policy) but I don’t expect I can do much about these.

Thank you.

Re: Tenant’s security refund - Posted by Chris in FL

Posted by Chris in FL on July 25, 2011 at 14:14:06:

I believe the law in my area is you must send a certified accounting of the deposit within 15 days! Judge would decide details about what you can deduct or not - rule of thumb is you can not deduct for normal wear and tear. Charge them for anything beyond normal wear and tear, and document it all. IMHO, don’t end up in court. Work it out with the resident, and even if you pay a little that you think they should be held responsible for, it is a victory compared to ending up in court.

Best wishes,
Chris in FL

Re: Tenant’s security refund - Posted by Beachbum

Posted by Beachbum on June 26, 2011 at 22:45:04:

It never ceases to amaze me when “landlords” start asking questions about security deposits AFTER the tenant is gone. You should review your local landlord tenant laws, and have a copy on hand at the outset! The penalty for NOT following local law can be very expensive; and, you will certainly miss out on collecting legitimate damages if you fail to document according to local law as well. Most jurisdictions are very specific as to how many days you have to account for the deposit, and you may need proof that you sent it in a timely manner…such as a signed return receipt.

You should have done a move in inspection to document the conditions at that time, for comparison to the condition at move out. Photos and written notes at a minimum, with the tenant signing a copy at move in will usually provide adequate proof for you to legally deduct for damages.

You will not be able to charge the tenant for the entire paint job, but you certainly can charge for restoring damaged areas. Have your vendor separate the charges for restoration of those areas from the prep and paint of the undamaged areas that will be at your expense. Same goes for the light covers, if you can document they were in place at move in. Tenants are typically responsible for ANY “Damage” they or their guests cause. “Damage” does NOT include items falling apart from old age, rot, corrosion, or your failure to maintain. “Damage” typically is either intentional or caused by misuse or extraordinary heavy use, or even by simply not taking ordinary care…such as a carpet soiled by normal use, but never cleaned.

As to the cat, why are you just now finding out about that? You must inspect rentals at least annually, and note any issues that are in violation of your agreement at that time. Follow up with formal notification to your tenant of any corrective actions they must take, per local law and the terms of your agreement.

Better luck with your next tenant…

Re: Tenant’s security refund - Posted by Lee in LA

Posted by Lee in LA on June 26, 2011 at 18:41:22:

When I am in your spot, (as a property owner) I always think and act as if I were in court, answering the
judges? questions. That keeps me from doing things I might otherwise do, like ?going off? when I find out the
tenant had an animal in my property when they knew that was not allowed!

You should make repairs, paint, replace light fixtures (1), and clean up after the cat ASAP. Keep your
receipts and make copies of them. Compile a list of expenses including your labor (2) and mail a check and the
list of expenses to the former tenant for the remainder (if any) of their deposit to their new address. If you
don’t know their new address, mail a blank sheet of paper to your property (former tenant’s address) with
“Address Service Requested” written on the front of the envelope. And if the tenant owes you? bill em!

(1) cheaper to pay electrician to make one trip to the store to get light fixtures than to pay him/ her to
ride around looking for parts that might not be available

(2) courts don?t like it when property owners charge for their own labor, they would rather see where labor
was paid

Points to note:
Be fast
Be fair (golden rule)
Be honest
Do things as if you were going to court (document and be reasonable)
Go to the property every now and then to check on it and to see if there are any unauthorized animals there.

Good luck with it


2 out 3 ain’t bad… - Posted by David Krulac

Posted by David Krulac on June 25, 2011 at 21:45:51:

  1. State law usually dictates time frame for security deposit return. In Pa. it is 30 days, and the penalty is double or triple the deposit.

  2. Paint is a cost you will eat. An IRS agent told me that paint needed to be depreciated over a 5 year period. I said that it was obvious that he was never a landlord.

  3. Mising & broken items are legal to charge back to tenant.

Re: Tenant’s security refund - Posted by Frank Chin

Posted by Frank Chin on June 25, 2011 at 21:40:07:


1- I generally do a walkthrough of the rental unit with the tenant, and if everything checks out, I issue the refund check right then and there. Yes, 45 days is very excessive.

2- After every turnover, all my units are painted, and normally painters would spackle and do small repairs to get the job, or for a slight additional cost. I once did not do painting when the tenant moved out in several months and the result was it took a month longer to rent the unit out, and the lost rent would’ve paid for two paint jobs. My freshly painted apartments rent in a snap.

So NO, you cannot get the cost of a paint job after two years. BTW, at one time when I charge market rents, all my tenancies average two years, so if my position is “I don’t paint every 2 years”, then I’ll wind up renting mostly unpainted apartments. Unpainted apartments take forever to rent out, and aside from the asthetics, most tenants are grossed out from the fact that the GERMS of the prior tenant is still there, and when “AIDS” was in the news some years back, I hear people complaining about landlords renting unpainted apartments (because it was only painted 2 years before) and freaking out they’ll catch AIDS.

BTW, I once had a house for rent, and there were 2 or 3 competing rentals in the area. About 6 people were fighting to rent my place for the simple reason the other landlords refused to paint their units because the prior tenants was there for a short time. I rented my place out the same weekend my prior tenant moved out. This is not the first time I had such good luck, and I have to be forever thankful to nearby LL’s who won’t paint.

3- You can charge for the depreciated cost of the light covers, so you’re not going to get the cost of brand new light covers.

4- If she snuck a cat in, and there are issues relating to that, such as odors which has to be eliminated, then you can try to recover it as well.

Re: Tenant’s security refund - Posted by Ken

Posted by Ken on June 25, 2011 at 15:31:32:

Return deposit or account for it according to state law.If damage includes holes in walls I charge to paint after fixing the holes since now it must be painted as part of the repair.Charge to replace missing covers.Some states will not allow you to charge for your labor so have someone else do it and charge for there time.If you are trying to run up the bill charge her more for the work than the deposit so you can send an accounting and a bill as opposed to exactly the amount of the deposit,this way if they call you just tell them to send what they owe and you won’t hear from them again

Re: Tenant’s security refund - Posted by Sailor

Posted by Sailor on June 25, 2011 at 14:09:05:

Security deposit returns are covered by state law. 45 days sounds excessive. Yes, your tenant is responsible for damages, though you probably can’t charge her the full cost for re-painting. If she violated your pet policy, what is the penalty in your lease? Mine is outrageous to discourage illegal pets. If you have no penalty specified, you may be limited by the damage amount. If there was a cat you probably have to do extensive work.

Did you make the tenant furious before or after she moved? The latter is much better.


Re: Tenant’s security refund - Posted by Wayne-NC

Posted by Wayne-NC on June 27, 2011 at 07:45:06:

“If there was a cat you probably have to do extensive work.”
I am curious to find out what I am missing here. You are possibly making some assumptions (and rightfully so)regarding cat care by tenants.
Cats are typically very clean animals. If taken care of propertly (and this includes dogs too) there should never be any extensive work. Indoor/outdoor cats are just that and no litter box to change. Quite easy as we have one. Indoor cats need a clean litter box changed regularly. Dogs obviously need to be walked or let out into the yard daily. I am thinking that your referring to tenants who just don’t care. With that “extensive work” would be necessary with any pet.