Whether you are a landlord who owns a rental unit or tenants renting out a home or apartment, it is always a good idea to know about the conditions where the landlord can keep a certain or full amount of the security deposit of the tenants. 

In this article, we will be discussing can landlord keep security deposit for breaking lease. So be sure to read this article carefully to know about it.

The landlord usually has the right to keep the tenant’s security deposit for many reasons, including breaking the contract and early termination of the lease. The rules and guidelines of deposit lease agreement usually depend on the state and the circumstances of the unit or the property when the tenant breaks the lease.

What is Security Deposit?

A security deposit is the sum of the money that the new residents give to their landlord or the property management company in addition to their advance rent payments. The amount is usually based on monthly rent and it’s intended to protect the landlord in the event of damage or the breach of the lease by the tenant.

The security deposit is also known as the “damage deposit” as it may help to recover from certain damages caused by the tenants. Many landlords may require one and a half months as a security deposit, but this can differ from state to state. Here we discuss when can landlord keep security deposit for breaking lease. Get to know the security deposit lease agreement.

Note: Get to know How to Rent your House Fast? Step-to-step Guide For Landlords in Oklahoma.

When can Landlord keep Security Deposit for Breaking Lease?

The conditions where the landlord can keep certain or the full amount of the security deposit differs from state to state. Each state has its own Security deposit laws which must be followed by the landlord as well as the tenant, including the conditions where the landlord can keep the security deposit for breaking lease. The state-specific laws may increase as well as decrease. However here are the five most common conditions where the landlord can keep the security deposit:

Infographics showing conditions when the landlord can keep the security deposit

Breaking or Early Lease Termination

The landlord can keep a certain or full amount of the security deposit in order to cover the cost associated with these breaches if the tenants break the lease. Whether the tenant has signed a lease agreement for a month or a year, it’s expected that the tenant will stay for the expected duration mentioned in the lease agreement. Again it will depend on the words mentioned in your security deposit lease agreement and the landlord-tenant act of the particular state.

Know more about Early Lease Termination Notice

In general, the breaches involve a transfer of funds so the landlord must cover the available time, time to find someone to occupy the unit, and the early termination fees explained by the contract. The person breaching the lease typically has to pay what the lease contract specifies for these cases without warning or an agreement between the landlord and the tenant. Know more about Oklahoma landlord-tenant act eviction.

Failure or Delay in Rent Payment

Most of the states allow keeping certain of the full amount of the security deposit if the tenant is not able to pay the rent. Failure or Delay in Rent payment is also considered as a breach of the lease.

In many cases, when the tenant breaks the lease, he or she will also have some unpaid rent or late payments accrue. In these conditions, the landlords have the full right to use the security deposit to cover the rent. Early termination can occur up to one month before or a single year or multiple year lease completes. Thus the individual is responsible for all of the remaining rent for the rest of the lease or rental agreement period. These unpaid fees can add up to even more than can be covered by the security deposit.

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Damage to the Property

Typically the landlord doesn’t have the right to keep the security deposit for the normal tears and wears. These are the things that are considered as “Normal Wear and Tear”:

  • Small nail holes in the walls for hanging picture
  • Small stains on the carpet
  • Tarnish on bathroom fixture
  • Dent in walls from door handles
  • Faded Paint
  • Dirty grout

However, if the tenant has caused extensive damage to the property, the landlord has the right to keep the security deposit for maintenance purposes. Damages that can result in the landlord keeping the security deposit are as follows:

  • Multiple large big holes in the walls.
  • Huge stains or holes in the carpets.
  • Broken Windows
  • Broken Doors
  • Broken Bathroom vanity
  • Missing Outlet Cover

Recommended Article: Can a Landlord Make a Tenant Pay for Repairs?

Extensive Cleaning Costs

Normal Cleaning costs associated with turning over a rental property cannot be taken into consideration out of the security deposit. However if the tenant has left the rental unit with excessive trash or the furniture that needs to be moved out, then the landlord can deduct a certain amount from the security deposit as a cleaning cost.

Unpaid Utility Bills

The landlord can deduct a certain amount of the security deposit if the tenant has not been paying the utility bill. The landlord may be able to keep the security deposit to cover any utilities they refuse to pay and were required to pay as part of their lease.

Unfortunately, the landlord may still be responsible for unpaid utility bills. That is the case even if the utilities are in the name of the tenant. 

How to Avoid Security Deposit Deduction as a Tenant?

Although it’s not always possible to avoid the security deposit deduction altogether. More often the power to do so resides entirely in the tenant’s handling of the property.

Try to fix everything in the move-in inventory before you leave, up to the mark.

You have to arrange it with the landlord for bigger repairs and work. As per your contract, you would definitely have no right to do heavy maintenance and repairs. Further deductions and disputes may result from disregarding this law.

Smaller fixes, however, are very welcome and will enhance your opportunity to receive back your deposit.

Prepare the Checklist of repairs before leaving the property such as:

  • Pay all of the outstanding rents
  • Pay all of the unpaid utility bills
  • Clean inside and outside 
  • Fix damages such as damaged bulbs, stains on the walls, broken door lock
  • Remove the furniture that is to be moved
  • Remove all of the trashes
  • Deodorize any of the bad odors caused due to house pets
  • Fix all of the holes in the walls
  • Try cleaning the carpet in order to remove the stains.

Returning The Security Deposit

Assuming that the tenant has owned full or some amount of the security deposit, the landlord is responsible to return the security deposit after certain days of tenants moving out if the lease terms are met. Each state has its own statute within how many days to return the security deposit after the tenant moves out.

In some states, a landlord must return the security deposit within 14 days of business days from the end of the tenancy. In addition, if any deduction has been made, the landlord must include an itemized bill including the reason for the deduction and the amount being withheld. Other states require an itemized statement but allow for 30 days before the security deposit must be returned to the tenant.

The landlord should keep in mind that the reason for the deduction from the security deposit must be legitimate. The landlord who wrongfully withholds a security deposit or doesn’t follow state laws, then the tenant can file in the court for small claims court. If the landlord is found withholding the security deposit wrongfully, then the tenant may be awarded any amount of the security deposit.

FAQs on Security Deposit Lease Agreement

Can the landlord keep the security deposit in Oklahoma for breaking the lease?

A landlord can retain all or a portion of the security deposit of a tenant in the state of Oklahoma to cover: Unpaid Rent, Damages that exceeds natural wear or tear, Certain infringements of the leasing agreement

Can the landlord keep the security deposit for no reason?

No, The landlord cannot keep the security deposit for no reason. The landlord must be able to show everything i.e reasons for the security deduction in the notice.

Can the tenant sue the landlord for not returning the security deposit?

The landlord who wrongfully withholds a security deposit or does not comply with state laws then the tenant can file a small claims court in court. If the landlord is found wrongfully withholding the security deposit, then the portion of the security deposit can be awarded to the tenant.

Can the landlord keep a security deposit after eviction?

If the tenant has been evicted, the tenant will still need to pay the rent to the landlord until the tenant moves out even after the eviction. The landlord can deduct a certain amount from the security deposit if the tenant is unable to pay the rent after being evicted.

Do you get the deposit back if you break a lease?

In most cases, breaking a lease lets the landlords take the security deposit to recover from the breach of contract. When the landlord must repair the rental property, he or she will need compensation to do so outside of the usual lease period.

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