More U.S. households are renting now than at any point in the last 50 years. There are 43.3 million American households currently renting their apartment or house.1
Pretty much every landlord renting out an apartment or house requires each tenant to give them a security deposit. So let’s say there are 40 million American households that have given hundreds or thousands of dollars to their landlord as a deposit.
This deposit is supposed to be used by the landlord for very specific purposes. The most common purposes are to cover unpaid rent, to fix excessive damage to the rental caused by the tenant, and to cover violations of the rental agreement.
The problem arises when the tenant moves out. And lots of people are moving out, which means this problem is happening to lots of people. In 2018, more than 21.4 million Americans moved out of their rented apartment or house.2
When a renter moves out, their landlord has to decide how much of the deposit they’ll keep. The basis of this decision is subjective. As an example, some think a one inch hole in the wall is “ordinary” damage, which means the landlord should pay the cost of fixing it. Others might think a hole of that size is “excessive” damage, which means the tenant’s deposit should pay the cost of fixing it. The final piece to call out is that landlords are running businesses, and they want to make money. To summarize the situation:
- The landlord is running a business and wants to make money.
- The landlord is holding a big pile of the tenant’s money.
- The landlord gets to decide how much of this money to keep.
- The criteria the landlord uses to make this decision are subjective.
You can see how the elements of this situation tend to create an unfair outcome for the tenant. Landlords frequently withhold tenants’ security deposits without good reason.
So here are some key takeaways to understand.
- If your landlord is giving you a hard time about your security deposit, you are not alone. Millions of Americans deal with this problem every year.
- Landlords often try to keep an unfair amount of their tenants’ security deposits. When they say you can’t get it back, they might be wrong. You need to get back the money to which you are legally entitled.
- You have powerful legal rights designed to protect you from being taken advantage of. State lawmakers know about this problem and have passed laws to help tenants. Juris has made enforcing these rights pretty simple. We would love to help.
- Table A-4. Geographical Mobility by Tenure: 2018. https://www.census.gov/data/tables/time-series/demo/geographic-mobility/historic.html?kbid=93121