Retrieving security deposits can be tricky

Many renters forget to follow the requirements to get their deposits back and lose the security deposit to the landlord. Find out what you should do if you are a renter and want your security deposit back.

Once a renter has decided to vacate their rental property, recovering the security deposit can be a little tricky. How should a renter proceed to retrieve their security deposit once they have decided to leave the property? According to the MSU College of Law – Housing Law Clinic, the renter must provide the landlord with a forwarding address, in writing, within 4 days of moving out. Calling or telling the landlord will not cover this requirement. Without a forwarding address, the landlord is not required to figure out how to return the security deposit.

Many renters forget to provide an address in writing and then never receive their deposits back. If the landlord receives the address in writing, then the landlord has to respond within 30 days from the move out date by either returning the deposit money in full, or send an itemized list of damages assessed against the deposit money. If the renter disagrees with the assessed damages, they must respond to the landlord within 7 days of the receipt of the list of assessed damages, otherwise the renter will automatically lose the money assessed for damages.

Completing an inventory checklist at the time of moving into a property is a key to getting your deposit money back in full. The inventory checklist documents the damages and conditions of the property prior to the renter moving into the property. The renter must dispute in detail why they do not believe the assessed charges are accurate. The disputed reasons must be sent to the landlord in writing and by mail. Just calling and telling the landlord will not suffice for a landlord’s notice of your dispute.

Either the landlord or the tenant may be the plaintiff in a suit if the security deposit has not been settled. If the landlord believes they are to receive the security deposit, the landlord must file suit to retain the deposit. If the landlord does not file the suit, and the renter does and is found to be the rightful owner of the deposit, the landlord may be required to pay double the deposit amount to the renter. The renter may file suit if they failed to follow the rightful notice timelines or if the landlord does not return the deposit and follow the appropriate notice timelines. Either way it can take some time to settle the dispute before the deposit money is returned to the rightful owner.

For more information on money management and home ownership visit MI Money Health from Michigan State University Extension.

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