Renter's Guide

How Do I Get My Security Deposit Back?

Table of Contents

How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

Security deposits are no joke. A typical deposit is generally one month’s rent (although there is no statutory limit on security deposits in New York) and must be returned within a reasonable time after the tenant has returned keys and vacated the property. This reasonable time can be anytime from 21 to 45 days.

To ensure that your security deposit is returned in its full amount and on time, make sure to do the following:

  • Be familiar with your lease! If you haven’t read over your lease by this point in the guide, you really ought to do so. In general, tenants are expected to return the apartment in the condition it was first rented (with the exception of normal wear and tear). Depending on your landlord, other parts of the apartment may need to be professionally cleaned (i.e. carpet, windows, stovetops, etc.)
  • It’s illegal for landlords to withhold a security deposit without an explanation. The landlord must also disclose the name and address of the financial institution where the security deposit is being held and the amount of the deposit.
  • Inspect the unit carefully and take pictures of damages prior to moving into the apartment. The results of your inspection, if anything, should be reported immediately to your landlord and you should get a written agreement from the landlord ensuring that you won’t be held liable.
  • Throughout your lease, make sure to report damages or appliance malfunctions that aren’t your fault immediately. Be sure to keep records including, photos, emails, or letters.
  • Make sure that any renovations that you plan on doing are 100% sanctioned by the landlord. Document all repairs and improvements.
  • If you’re able to, it’s best to meet with the landlord in person to get their feedback on the state of the apartment. If the landlord believes that you haven’t done your job in returning the apartment to the original state, you should act immediately to fix any problems.

If your landlord wrongfully refuses to return your deposit, you can try sending them a demand letter stating that you have fulfilled your obligations in returning the apartment to its original state and that you require the security deposit be returned. If this still doesn’t work, you may need to take up the issue in small claims court.

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