Security deposit demand letter: What is it and how do I write one?
Is it time for you to send a security deposit demand letter?
Unless you or another tenant damaged your apartment, your landlord is required to pay back your security deposit within a certain time frame. However, not all landlords are great about returning your deposit in a timely manner, and others may try to charge you for damages or repairs for which you shouldn’t be responsible.
If your landlord is being especially evasive or difficult over returning your deposit, or if you have issues with some of the deductions from the deposit, it may be time to look into sending a security deposit demand letter. Here, we lay out why and when to send a letter, and how to word a letter if you do send one.
What to do before you send a demand letter
Before you rush to send a demand letter, take a close look at your lease, local laws, and have a conversation with your landlord. The deadline for your landlord to return your deposit should be laid out in your lease, along with any requirements for receiving it—e.g., they need your forwarding address, they need you to schedule a time to pick it up in person, and so on. Confirm that everything is in order on your end, and check the laws in your state to ensure you understand your rights as a tenant as well. Do state laws give them longer to return the money than the lease states? How much information are they required to give you about why they’re making deductions from the deposit? (And consider adding these to your list of questions to ask your landlord before renting—for future apartments.)
Once you’ve confirmed that your landlord is in the wrong, have a calm discussion with them first. Reach out and see if there has been some misunderstanding, or if there’s a reason they’re late in returning the deposit to you. If you have issues with specific deductions, or they didn’t itemize the deductions for you, see if you can come to a compromise like doing some painting or extra clean-up in exchange for a full refund—just make sure to get it all in writing.
When to send a demand letter
If your landlord is proving especially stubborn or unresponsive to your initial attempts to come to an understanding, it’s time to get more serious. Look into the security deposit deadlines and limits in your state. As long as your landlord has passed the state deadline as well as the deadline set out in your lease, you are in a position to send a demand letter.
Also take note of whether a security deposit demand letter is required by your state if you want to take your landlord to small claims court. If you think you might want to take that step, then you may need to send a letter regardless. Should you plan to sue, and it’s been one or more years since you left your old apartment, make sure that your case would fall within the statute of limitations for your state, as well.
Types of security deposit refund letters
There are several different types of security deposit letters. You can start the process of drafting a request for return of security deposit form after you identify which type is appropriate for your situation.
- After Tenancy. The basic type of security deposit demand letter a tenant sends if a landlord has not returned the security deposit within the legal time frame.
- No Receipt. Applicable in some states if a landlord did not provide a receipt for the security deposit.
- Failed to Transfer to New Owner. This security deposit refund letter may be necessary if a landlord sold the property but did not transfer the security deposit to the new owner.
- Did Not Place in a Separate Account. In some states, the landlord is required to keep a security deposit in a separate account.
- No Checklist. Applicable if the state requires landlords to provide tenants with inventory checklists when they vacate the apartment.
Template for security deposit demand letter
Once you’ve reviewed the laws in your state and determined which type of security deposit demand letter to send, it’s time to begin writing it. Follow this basic template to ensure it’s properly organized, abides by landlord tenant law, and contains certain essential information:
Dear [Landlord’s Name]:
How to write a security deposit letter
In the security deposit refund letter itself, state when you entered into the lease agreement and list the apartment address. State the amount of the security deposit, as well.
Next, explain that you have not received the security deposit (or related materials). Let the landlord know how long it has been since the deadline, and be sure to cite the specific landlord tenant law they have violated.
Within your request for return of security deposit form, you can also let them know that if you do not receive the security deposit by a certain date, you may take them to small claims court and potentially sue them for both the amount of the security deposit as well as punitive damages. Research the small claims court laws in your state to ensure you understand the process of filing a claim. You also need to be familiar with these laws to avoid making false statements in your letter.
What to do after writing the security deposit demand letter
Send the security deposit letter via certified mail. E-mailing it won’t be sufficient because you need confirmation the letter was received.
Every situation is unique, but if your landlord does not respond within 30 days (or if they try to avoid you when you attempt to make contact), there’s a good chance you’ll have to go to small claims court to resolve the issue.
You never want to be in a position to send a security deposit demand letter. Unfortunately, it can happen. Knowing how to draft one correctly will boost your odds of getting the deposit back in a timely manner.
Alternatives to a security deposit
No one wants to go through the hassle we’ve outlined here; as the tenant, you don’t want to go through the trouble of sending the letter, and the landlord certainly won’t be delighted upon receiving it.
That said, there is an alternative—a security deposit replacement like Jetty Deposit. Jetty Deposit makes it so that instead of having to pay a full security deposit, you only pay a one-time non-refundable fee to Jetty. Renters like it because it’s much lower-cost than a security deposit (you only pay 17.5.% of a normal deposit), and landlords like it because we’re helping to ensure they get paid for any damage to their place.
Something to keep in mind: Jetty Deposit isn’t an excuse to go bananas; any damages to your place and responsibility for the rent are still on you. Instead, think of us like a referee between you and your landlord. The result: more trust, more security and lower costs for all.