Security Deposit

Protect your rights and your security deposit

With a bit of education and a local lawyer on call, you will have the resources you need to negotiate a fair security deposit and ensure that you get all of your money back, plus interest, at the end of your lease.

Your Landlord Must Follow State and Federal Security Deposit Laws

Many aspects of landlord and tenant relationships are governed by state, federal and even local laws. Below we cover the most common security deposit disputes.

If you’re having a security deposit dispute with your landlord, working with an experienced attorney can ensure that your rights are protected. LegalShield offers the most affordable way to get the help of a tenant lawyer in your state.

How to get your landlord to return your entire security deposit

Your lease, along with state and federal laws, dictates how your landlord can use your security deposit. If your landlord is unjustly trying to withhold a portion or all of your security deposit, your LegalShield provider attorney can fight to get it back for you. Typical permissible uses include the following. 

  • To return the unit to its original condition at the end of a lease term (not upgrade or improve the unit).
  • To repair property damage caused by a tenant (this does not include normal wear and tear). 
  • To clean the property if it’s excessively dirty when turned back over to the landlord.
  • To offset unpaid rent. 

In almost all cases, landlords are required to conduct a walk through with tenants to point out their reasons for withholding all or a portion of the security deposit and give the renter a chance to dispute their claims and/or time to make necessary repairs. In addition, most states require landlords to provide an itemized list of security deposit deductions and receipts for any repairs they claim to have made. 

If your landlord is unjustly refusing to return any portion of your security deposit, speaking with an experienced attorney is the best way to quickly understand your rights and get your landlord to return all the funds you’re owed. 

Understanding the Timeframe Your Landlord Has to Return a Security Deposit

Whether your landlord is claiming deductions from your original security deposit or not, at the end of the lease term, they have to return any remaining funds within the time period indicated by state law. 

If your landlord fails to return any remaining security deposit funds within the legal mandated time period, you may be able to sue the landlord and keep all of the deposit funds. 

As with everything else on this page, you’ll need to check the laws in your state or contact a local attorney to get sound legal advice.

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On average, state laws require landlords to a return security deposit in between fourteen and sixty days. 


In California, for example, landlords are required to refund security deposits within 21 days of the renter vacating the unit.

Source: City of San Fransisco Rent Board

Your Landlord May Owe You Interest Earned on Your Security Deposit

In almost all states, landlords are required to keep your security deposit in a separate bank account. Some states even require the landlord to pay the renter interest earned on the deposit. As for the amount due, you need to review your lease and speak with your landlord to learn more about the expectations around the condition of the rental unit at the end of the lease. 

Interest payments may be due at the end of your rental term or annually if you’re renting over multiple years. Other states allow landlords or property managers to keep any interest earned. 

Become a LegalShield member now and have our tenant attorneys answer all of your questions. 

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Some states require landlords to pay any interest earned on security deposits back to the renter.

The maximum security deposit a landlord can require

You may be wondering how much of a security deposit the law allows your landlord to require in the first place. The answer depends upon the state in which the rental unit is located. Here are a few examples: 

  • Some states limit security deposits to an amount equal to one month’s rent.
  • California limits deposits to two month’s rent, unless the rental is furnished, in which case the deposit can be up to three months.
  • Some states have no limit on the amount of a security deposit a landlord can request.
  • Cities and counties might have different security deposit laws you need to check, especially if the unit is rent controlled.

If you’re about to sign a lease and have concerns about the security deposit required or questions about any other aspect of the agreement, it’s a good idea to get legal advice. When you join LegalShield, you can be on the phone with an experienced lawyer within four hours after your membership is approved. Your membership gets you unlimited legal advice by phone, the ability to submit your lease, help from an attorney to negotiate your lease terms, and more. 

Get Legal Support to Resolve Security Deposit Disputes
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