If you’ve been renting a house in San Diego, you’re well aware of what a security deposit is. You likely have one now! And I’m going to guess you don’t want to lose it.
Last year, the number of renters in San Diego reached an all-time high. And with many families still trying to get back on their feet financially during the pandemic, it’s important that you know how to avoid losing your security deposit.
Security deposits against damage are standard practice in rental agreements, especially for rental homes. Landlords put these in place to protect themselves in case a tenant doesn’t take good care of the house. If a tenant leaves a home damaged or abnormally worn down, the landlord has to either spend money to fix it up again or rent it out for less money to the next tenant. In this scenario, the landlord keeps the deposit to make up for the loss.
But what if you’ve been a great tenant yet your landlord still deducts money from your deposit? What happened?
Many renters get this unwelcome surprise when they end their lease. They think that, as long as the home doesn’t have any major damage, then they should get the entire deposit back.
But it doesn’t always work that way.
Why Landlords Deduct from Security Deposits
There are several reasons a landlord may be able to deduct from your rental deposit. Here are some of the most common ones:
Not Paying Rent—This might seem obvious to you. If you break your lease early or simply didn’t pay rent one month, your landlord can deduct that money from the deposit. Again, it’s all about making up money the landlord lost.
Unpaid Utilities—This is similar to the previous reason. After all, utility companies don’t hold you, the renter, responsible for payments. They hold the landlord responsible! So if something happens and you either forget to pay the water or electric bill or you simply couldn’t pay it, it’s likely that your landlord will deduct that money from your security deposit.
High-Cost Cleaning—Normal wear and tear is understandable, and your landlord won’t hold you accountable for that. (Or at least, he shouldn’t!) But what he can hold you accountable for is if he has to hire a professional cleaner to do high-cost or unusual tasks to clean the home.
Damage—This is the primary purpose of a security deposit, so this one should make sense, too. If the home has any damage done to it, you may lose your entire deposit.
Trash You Left Behind—Thinking about leaving some old furniture behind that wasn’t there when you arrived? My recommendation is: Don’t. Even if it’s just an old patio table or bench, your landlord can deduct from your deposit if you leave items behind that he has to haul away to the dump. (Remember, it usually costs money to dispose of large items.)
Breaking Your Lease—Lastly, if you break your lease for any reason, you may be at risk of losing your deposit. Be sure to check your contract thoroughly to see what the rules are regarding breaking your lease. If you see terms that you don’t fully understand, ask your landlord for clarification. It’s better to figure this out now than to lose money you didn’t have to lose.
How to Avoid Losing Your Deposit
When you first move into the home you’re renting, you can take photos of all the structures and appliances. Just remember, it’s hard to prove cleanliness or minor damage through photos, which can sometimes be grainy or low-resolution.
It’s better to look at the report the landlord gives you and compare it to what you see in the house. If anything—walls, appliances, and so on—looks damaged or unclean and doesn’t line up with the report, contact your landlord immediately to let her know.
If you’ve already been living there for several years, obviously you can’t do this now. But what you can do is try to get the living spaces and appliances as close to the initial report as possible.
Eager to quit renting and buy your own home? If you’re looking in the San Diego area, my team and I would be thrilled to help you!
Contact us today to learn how we can help you find your dream home!