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How to Get Security Deposit Back (50-State Guide)

Camila Lopez - Landlord Complaints - June 6, 2024

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    How long a landlord has to return a security deposit after a tenant moves out varies by state. Below is a chart with deadlines in all 50 states and Washington D.C. for when a landlord has to return a security deposit.

    We have also included the state law that references security deposit deadlines so that you can fully understand your rights. 

    State 

    Deadline to Return Security Deposit 

    State Law 

    Alabama 

    60 Days 

    § 35-9A-201

    Alaska

    14 Days

    AS 34.03.070

    Arizona

    14 Days 

    § 33-1321

    Arkansas

    60 Days

    § 18-16-305

    California

    21 Days

    Civil Code §1950.5

    Colorado

    30 Days*

    § 38-12-103; § 38-12-104

    Connecticut

    30 Days

    § 47a-21

    Delaware

    20 Days

    § 5514

    Florida

    15 Days

    § 83.49

    Georgia

    30 Days

    § 44-7-34

    Hawaii

    14 Days

    § 521-44

    Idaho

    21 Days*

    § 521-44

    Illinois

    45 Days

    765 ILCS 710/1

    Indiana

    45 Days

    § 32-31-3-12

    Iowa

    30 Days

    § 562A.12

    Kansas

    30 Days

    § 58-2550

    Kentucky

    30 Days*

    § 383.580

    Louisiana

    1 Month

    § 9:3251

    Maine

    30 Days*

    § 6033

    Maryland

    45 Days

    § 8–203

    Massachusetts

    30 Days

    Chapter 186, §15B

    Michigan

    30 Days

    § 554.609

    Minnesota

    21 Days

    § 504B.178

    Mississippi

    45 Days

    § 89-8-21(3)

    Missouri

    30 Days

    § 535.300

    Montana

    10 Days

    § 70-25-202

    Nebraska

    14 Days

    § 76-1416

    Nevada

    30 Days

    NRS 118A.242

    New Hampshire

    30 Days

    RSA 540-A:7

    New Jersey

    30 Days*

    § 46:8-21.1

    New Mexico

    30 Days

    § 47-8-18

    New York

    14 Days

    § 7-108(1-a)(e) 

    North Carolina

    30 Days*

    § 42-52

    North Dakota

    30 Days

    § 47-16-07.1

    Ohio

    30 Days

    § 5321.16

    Oklahoma

    45 Days

    § 41-115

    Oregon

    31 Days

    § 90.300

    Pennsylvania

    30 Days

    § 250.512

    Rhode Island

    20 Days

    § 34-18-19

    South Carolina

    30 Days

    § 27-40-410

    South Dakota

    2 Weeks 

    § 43-32-24

    Tennessee

    30 Days

    § 66-28-301.2

    Texas

    30 Days

    § 92.103

    Utah

    30 Days

    § 57-17-3

    Vermont

    14 Days*

    § 4461

    Virginia

    45 Days

    § 55.1-1226

    Washington

    21 Days

    § 59.18.280

    Washington D.C.

    45 Days

    D.C. Mun. Regs. tit. 14 § 309

    West Virginia

    60 days* 

    § 37-6A-1

    Wisconsin

    21 Days

    § 134.06

    Wyoming

    15 or 30 days* 

    § 1-21-1208(A)

    * Check the law for additional information or exceptions. 
    We have comprehensive guides on security deposits for California, New York, and Texas with additional information.

    Security Deposit Laws

    In the chart above, we have included the laws that discuss security deposit deadlines for each state. The security deposit laws will also include information about: 

    • What can be legally deducted from your security deposit.

    • Penalties your landlord will face if they don’t follow the right procedure for returning your security deposit. For example, in California, a landlord will have to pay 2x the amount of your security deposit if they keep your deposit in bad faith. 

    • Whether your landlord had to provide an itemized statement and receipts to you regarding any deductions they made to your security deposit. 

    • How much your landlord could charge for a security deposit. 

    • Whether you had a right to a pre-move-out inspection.

    3 Ways to Get Your Security Deposit Back

    If you moved out of a rental unit and your landlord refuses to give you your security deposit back (in part or in full), you can take action against your landlord to recover your security deposit. 

    1. Send a Demand Letter

    If your landlord is not complying with your state’s security deposit laws and refuses to return your security deposit, consider sending them a security deposit demand letter

    In a security deposit demand letter, the main thing you are doing is requesting that your landlord return your security deposit. Typically, this letter is written after your landlord has not paid you back within your state’s required time period. The security deposit demand letter should also notify your landlord that if they do not return your security deposit within the deadline you provide, you intend to sue

    We also have template security deposit demand letters for California, New York, and Texas!

    2. File a Complaint 

    You may also file a complaint against a landlord or apartment complex for failing to return your security deposit. Some states have consumer protection agencies that handle complaints against landlords who refuse to return a tenant’s security deposit. For example, in Florida, you may file a complaint against a landlord with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS)

    In other states, you may be able to file a complaint against your landlord for failure to return your security deposit with the Attorney General’s Office. For example, in New York, the Attorney General investigates rent security deposit complaints. 

    3. Sue in Small Claims Court  

    If filing a complaint and sending a demand letter don’t work, it may be time to consider suing your landlord for the security deposit in small claims court. Small claims courts handle a wide variety of disputes, including disputes between tenants and landlords over security deposits. You just need to make sure your claim falls within the small claims limit for the court you are suing in and that the deadline to bring your claim hasn’t passed. 

    Small claims courts were also designed to be the “People’s Court,” so they are usually more affordable, convenient, and user-friendly as compared to regular courts. For example, you can sue a landlord in California small claims for up to $10,000 if they refuse to return your security deposit or make improper deductions to your security deposit. 


    Here are some examples of common security deposit small claims lawsuits filed against landlords:  

    Case Facts 

    Case Outcome

    A Los Angeles small claims lawsuit was filed against a landlord for failing to return a security deposit within the 21-day period as per California law

    The former tenant sued for a total of $2,410, which includes the full amount of the security.

    The court awarded the former tenant the total security deposit amount of $2,410, plus an additional $50 for court costs. 

    A Monterey small claims lawsuit was filed against a landlord for withholding, in bad faith, a portion of a security deposit. For property damage due to the conditions of the apartment, and for other issues of habitability.

    The former tenant sued for a total of $3,850. This amount includes reimbursement for property damage, return of their security deposit, and other expenses incurred due to poor apartment conditions.

    The court awarded the former tenant a total of $1,593.58, plus an additional $90 for court costs. It is unclear from the court’s decision why this specific amount was awarded.

    A Santa Clara small claims lawsuit was filed against a landlord for failing to return a security deposit within the 21-day period as per California law

    The previous tenant filed a lawsuit for a total of $10,000. This amount includes the full security deposit ($3,500), as well as 2x the amount of the security deposit as allowed under California security deposit law. Additionally, the $10,000 includes reimbursement for expenses incurred by the tenant, including travel expenses to California (as they had moved out of the state) and time off work to attend the hearing.

    The court awarded the former tenant a total of $2,745, plus an additional $150 for court costs. The landlord was able to provide evidence of timely documented security deposit deductions for expenses such as house cleaning, repairs, and backyard clean-up, so the court did not award the full amount of the security deposit.

    The court denied awarding double the security deposit amount. The court also denied the former tenant’s request for lost wages and travel expenses

    A Monterey small claims lawsuit was filed against a landlord who made improper deductions from a tenant's security deposit.

    The former tenant filed a lawsuit for a total of $2,091.94, which is the number of improper deductions made to the security deposit.

    The court awarded the former tenant the total amount they were suing for, $2,091.94. The court also awarded the former tenant an additional $125 for court costs

    Make sure you win for the total amount you are suing for by not making these 5 mistakes during your small claims hearing.

    Author

    Camila Lopez

    Legal Educator at JusticeDirect. Camila holds a law degree and is a certified mediator. Her passion is breaking down complicated legal processes so that people without an attorney can get justice.

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