Recently I heard from my old neighbor – the same one who lived through my late fees nightmare. She moved out of her apartment this summer. And now she had another problem.
She had gone on her apartment move-out inspection with the manager. He assured her that her apartment was “perfect” with no damage found beyond normal wear and tear, and would receive her full security deposit back. But her $504 security deposit refund check was less than what she believed she was owed, and she was ready to fight back once again.
What is a security deposit?
A security deposit is a payment of money by the renter to the landlord as security for performance of a renter’s obligations. The landlord may not charge you more than one month’s rent, and the security deposit payment can be collected only once.
Your security deposit is placed in an escrow account that earns interest at the prevailing interest rate. If you leave your rental unit after living there for 12 months or more, you will get back your security deposit plus interest.
Your landlord has 45 days after the end of the rental period to return the security deposit plus interest, or notify you in writing of plans to keep part of the money.
Here are some tips from the 2013 Washington DC Tenant Survival Guide to ensure that your landlord refunds all the money you are owed:
When you move in:
Protect your money:
When you move out:
Refer to the 2013 Washington DC Tenant DC Survival Guide (p. 9-10) to read about security deposits, including a section on steps you can take if your landlord refuses to refund your security deposit—or keeps more money than you believe is fair.
The Coalition for Non-Profit Housing has an online copy of the 2013 Washington, DC Tenant Survival Guide, Eighth Edition for download. (visit cnhed.org/policy-advocacy/research) scroll down to “Additional Research Information.”) It’s available in both English and Spanish.
What happened to my former neighbor?
That check wasn’t the problem. She had not kept a record of her security deposit payment. Nor was she familiar with the regulations and requirements of the DC security deposit law – and her renter rights.
Her $504 check – $500 for the security deposit plus $4 interest – was correct. If she had received less than her original security deposit plus interest, her landlord would have sent a written notice with the check, itemizing the list of all repairs which were being reimbursed by her security deposit.
Here comes the Tenant Summit!
Learn your renter rights and discover resources at the FREE Tenant and Tenant Association Summit on Saturday, September 16th, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Kellogg Conference Hotel, Gallaudet University.
The summit is held each year by the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate (OTA). OTA’s first statutory duty is education and outreach to the rental community. The summit is OTA’s largest annual city-wide outreach event, and this is the tenth anniversary of the gathering.
All DC renters – whether you are renting an apartment, condo, co-op or house – are encouraged to attend. OTA also welcomes anyone that supports renter rights: Landlords with rental property in DC, children’s health advocates, disability rights groups, senior services organizations and emergency housing agencies.
At the summit you can:
Because the law is complex and constantly changing, renters should not solely rely on this article or the DC Tenant Survival Guide. Contact case managers at OTA for legal assistance.