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What Can a Landlord Deduct From a Security Deposit?


February 5, 2019

Written by:

Abhi Sreerama

Tenants and landlords both ask the question “ What can a landlord deduct from a security deposit? ” It can be confusing for both parties when it comes to what’s allowed to be deducted from the deposit and what costs are the landlord’s responsibility. This is such a common question because many disputes result from misunderstandings between what is normal wear and tear versus damage.

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Normal Wear and Tear

Security deposits, also known as damage deposits, are given to a landlord to protect him or her from aggressive tenants who cause serious damages to the property. It’s to help ensure that the renter will treat the unit properly while residing there. At the end of the tenancy, any damage or excessive dirt that isn’t considered wear and tear can be repaired using the security deposit. Any money left over is to be returned to the tenant within a certain deadline depending on the laws of the state. What can a landlord deduct from a security deposit? That will depend on a number of repairs that aren’t considered normal.

What Does it Mean?

Normal wear and tear is a vague description that can be interpreted in a variety of ways by different people. One landlord might believe that a tenant’s apartment shouldn’t need to be painted every 3 to 4 years while others believe that dirty blinds and curtains are not normal.

Carpet that is worn down from years of traffic is considered normal wear and tear on the unit. Small nail holes in the walls are normal wear and tear too. Frayed pull strings on the blinds would be normal while broken blinds would not be considered normal. Faded, worn and loose items can happen over time with normal use.

Wear and Tear That is the Tenant’s Responsibility

There are times when normal wear and tear can be the responsibility of the tenant. For example, a property management company in Missouri City might not be contacted regarding a leaky pipe. Tenants are responsible for letting a landlord or management company know if there are repairs to be made in the unit. If that leaky pipe weakens and loosens the cabinet underneath, the tenant’s security deposit could be held to repair the cabinet. Property managers in Missouri City want to hear about any issues in the unit to keep it in good repair.

Repairs and Costs That Can be Deducted

Costs That Can be Deducted

When questioning what can a landlord deduct from a security deposit, it comes down to big repairs in the unit. Broken walls from a tenant’s destructive behavior will be deducted from the security deposit. Broken tiles in the bathroom could be deducted from the security deposit unless it’s a result of a leaky pipe behind the wall that had to be fixed.

Along with broken and ruined walls, floors and appliances in the unit, a tenant is responsible for paint removal if the tenant painted without approval.

  • Dirt and Filth
  • Excessive mold
  • Dirty stove
  • Pet stains in the carpet
  • Filthy bathroom

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Common Questions Answered

Flooring Questions

If there’s a worn path on the floor near the entry, is that the tenant’s responsibility?

A path in the carpet from high traffic isn’t the tenant’s fault. That comes down to normal wear and tear of living.

What about the hole in the carpet near the door?

This wouldn’t be considered normal living and the tenant would have to give up some of their deposit for the repair.

The tile in the kitchen is broken. Who is responsible for that?

There’s no reason that the tile should be broken during normal use. This would be the tenant’s responsibility.

Questions about Wall and Door Repair

Who should pay for the repair of the dent in the wall from the doorknob?

This would be considered normal wear. The tenant can’t be held responsible for a doorknob’s placement.

There are a few small nail holes and one major hole from hanging pictures. Who pays for that?

The small holes are easily repaired, but the large hole should be paid for by the tenant.

Appliance Questions

There is grease and food all around the burners. It’ll take hours to clean. Who should pay for that?

The tenant has to pay for excessive dirtiness in the unit, so that should be removed from the security deposit.

The new dishwasher doesn’t work and the technician said it was from misuse. Should that be deducted from the deposit?

Yes, it should be deducted from the deposit, but only if the landlord can prove it was the tenant’s fault.

Pet Damage Questions

Who pays for the chewed door frames in the unit when the landlord allowed pets on the property?

It doesn’t matter if the landlord allows pets. The damage from those pets is the pet owner’s responsibility.

When a tenant moves into a unit, the landlord and tenant should do a walking tour of the apartment with a checklist to see that everything is in order. The same should be done when the tenant moves out of the unit. At that time, the two can discuss any damage or normal wear and tear to decide what can a landlord deduct from a security deposit.

The amount of what can a landlord deduct from a security deposit might be under fire by a tenant after they’ve moved. The landlord should have receipts and statements by any repair technicians or cleaning crew regarding the work that had to be performed to bring the unit back to a rental state for new tenants.


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