A landlord requiring a security deposit is a common occurrence when you look to rent. It provides a safety net for landlords to account for any damages outside of ordinary wear and tear to the rental premises. A security deposit is supposed to only be a deposit though; if there are no extraordinary damages you are supposed to get it back. Unfortunately, many Indiana renters discover their landlord will unjustly or untimely hold their security deposit even if there are no extraordinary damages or just for cleaning and other touch ups. What exactly can a landlord deduct from the security deposit, when can they hold it back and what do you do to recover it?
When a renter or tenant puts down a security deposit as part of their lease or rental agreement, a landlord has a strict duty to provide an itemized invoice listing any deductions and witholdings from the deposit within 45 days of the tenant vacating the rental premises. These deductions can be for reasons such as:
· Unpaid utility bills
· Unpaid rent
· Cost of repairs for damage outside of ordinary wear and tear.
In Indiana, ordinary wear and tear can be thought of as the damage or depreciation to a rental premises that naturally occurs from being lived in. This can include such things as scuffed walls, dirty carpets, nicks in doorways or baseboards, scratches on countertops and so on. Tenants are not expected to return the rental premises to the landlord in the exact same condition or better than they found it.
So, what sort of damage can a landlord withhold from the security deposit? Think bigger and more extreme damage to a home. A landlord can withhold from the security deposit damages like:
· Tears in carpets
· Holes in walls
· Garbage and personal property left behind by the tenant
· Broken fixtures caused by the tenant
This list is not exhaustive, but these are common withholdings from the deposit. The most frequent and commonly disputed withholdings might be the cost to clean carpets and paint walls. These repairs and costs are generally considered to be ordinary wear and tear, except in cases where the carpets are so soiled that they require a deep clean and when the walls have to be repaired.
If the damages and cost to repair are so high that it takes up the entire amount of the deposit, a landlord may withhold all of the security deposit from the tenant. The landlord is still required however to give the itemized invoice with deductions to the tenant within 45 days of moving out.
If a landlord does not do this or just flat out refuses to give the security deposit back with no explanation, a tenant has the option to sue in their local Small Claims court for the return of the security deposit, plus attorney’s fees incurred to recover the deposit. In fact, under Indiana law, a tenant is entitled to the full return of the security deposit if the landlord fails to return the security deposit or provide the invoice within the 45 day time limit.
Many landlords treat the security deposit as a way to cover the costs of preparing the rental premises for the next tenant. This is not their purpose, nor does Indiana law allow for the security deposit to be used in such a way. If your landlord if unjustly withholding your security deposit past the 45 day limit, contact Steciuch Law at (219) 476-3870 or at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consultation to get your security deposit back.