Security Deposit – The Tenant’s Rights

Security Deposit Refund

The most common dispute between a landlord and a tenant involves the security deposit refund.  A landlord has 30 days from the end of the lease to account for the tenant’s security deposit.  The most common deductions from security deposits are for cleaning and repairs that are not considered “normal wear and tear”.

What is “normal wear and tear”?

“Normal wear and tear” results from the tenant’s day to day use and occupancy.  What exactly is considered “normal” depends on the facts and circumstance.  The determination is often specific to the situation. Are the needed repairs a result of tenant abuse and neglect?  There is often no easy answer.

Document property condition!

A landlord can deduct for damage that is not “normal wear and tear” on the property.  The key is to for the landlord to be reasonable.  A tenant should document the property condition before moving in and again before returning the property to the landlord.  The tenant should take pictures and make detail notes of any existing damage, needed repairs or cleaning issues. Also, the tenant should provide the landlord a copy of their notes.  Finally, the tenants could insist that the landlord conduct walk-thru inspections together at move-in and again at move-out.

The Texas Property Code requires the landlord to itemize each deduction from the security deposit refund.  However, the landlord may have a right to retain the security deposit as damages if there was a material and substantial breach of the lease by the tenant.

If a landlord in bad faith refuses to refund or account for a deposit, the tenant  can sue for damages of up to three times the amount of the security deposit. If you are in a dispute with your landlord over a security deposit then contact Andrew Bernick at 512-763-5370 or by email at