Security Deposit: What is It and How Can You Get it Back?

An overview of security deposits that offers answers to the most popular security deposit questions asked by tenants.

Security deposits are a hot topic of discussion for potential renters. Have you often wondered exactly what a security deposit is, what it can be used for, and how soon you can expect to get it back after moving out of your rental home? If so, you are not alone. Questions about security deposits are common among renters working with property management companies and landlords.

With that in mind, this renter’s guide article addresses the ins and outs of security deposits. Remember, state laws govern security deposits. The information provided below is general in nature, and may not reflect the laws regulating security deposits in your state. If you are searching for a rental home in North Carolina and have questions about security deposits or any other rental topics, please do not hesitate to contact us here at Red Door Company.

Security Deposit: What is It?

Looking for an easy to understand security deposit definition? In its simplest terms, a security deposit is a refundable payment required by a landlord from the tenant before taking possession of the rental property. The security deposit amount is usually equal to one month’s rent, but that amount is not set in stone. In most cases, state laws will limit the amount a landlord can require for a security deposit.

How a Renter’s Landlord Can Use a Security Deposit

Your landlord or property management company must follow specific laws for how they can use the security deposit. Typically, the security deposit can be used to repair property damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear caused by tenants or their guests. A security deposit can also be used to cover unpaid rent or other charges like utility bills or legal fees. Finally, landlords can use security deposit funds to clean the rental property and return it to he condition it was in before a tenant taking possession.

How a Tenant Can Get a Security Deposit Back

It is called a refundable security deposit because renters can get this payment refunded to them after moving out of the rental property. One way tenants can improve their chances of getting their security deposit back is to read their lease thoroughly and not violate any of the lease terms. Also, renters should return the rental property in the same condition, minus normal wear and tear, that it was in during the move-in inspection.

Prior to vacating the premises, clean the rental property thoroughly, repair any damage which occurred during your tenancy, remove any trash and return the keys. You can also ask to be onsite during the move-out inspection to fix any issues or clean anything you may have missed. Following your lease terms and being responsible and proactive can go a long way in making sure that you get your security deposit back.

Timeline for Returning Your Security Deposit

Once you vacate the rental premises at the termination of your lease, the landlord typically has a defined period to return the security deposit. As mentioned in another article, most property management companies process tenant security deposits as fast as they can. However, when there are damages to be repaired, the speed with which a property management company can process the deposit depends on the availability and speed of repair vendors, the availability of materials, and other variables.

North Carolina Security Deposit Law

In North Carolina, the Tenant Security Deposit Act gives landlords 30 days to account for and/or refund a tenant’s security deposit. However, if the extent of the landlord’s claim against the security deposit cannot be determined in 30 days (perhaps there are extensive damages or damages that are too complex to repair in 30 days), then the landlord may issue an interim accounting within 30 days and a final accounting within 60 days. The statute does not provide an option to hold a tenant’s security deposit for more than 60 days without a full accounting.

Hopefully, the above renter’s guide information helps explain any of your questions regarding security deposits. If you need more information and would like to speak to a North Carolina property management professional, please contact us at Red Door Company.