What Your Landlord Doesn’t Want You to Know about Your Security Deposit

Montgomery County, Maryland is extremely serious about protecting the rights of tenants – including their security deposits.

It’s governed by the Landlord-Tenant Handbook put out by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs.

If you’re renting in Rockville – or anywhere in the area – you’ll definitely want to keep a copy handy for any questions or potential disputes.

As the cliché’ goes, knowing is half the battle.

While there are a large amount of fantastic, ethical landlords in the area looking for a mutually beneficial relationship, it can serve tenants well to know their rights with regards to security deposits.

Note:  You should always be careful who you are renting from – ask the right questions and beware the rampant cases of fraud that can occur on sites like Craigslist.

While you may want to consider working with a professional to protect your best interests in the rental process, here are the main laws regarding the holding of security deposits:

Security deposits must be returned within 45 days of vacating a property (the deposit must in the tenant’s hands; not mailed).

Landlords are required to return your money within a certain timeframe.

“The check is in the mail” isn’t good enough, depending on how long it has been since you vacated the property.

A property is defined as vacated when the keys have been physically turned over to the landlord or property management company.

The devil is always in the details, so make sure you have “officially moved out” by returning your keys to the landlord/property management company and getting a copy of a receipt that says you have done so.

If you mail your keys in, you might want to seriously consider using certified mail.

A maximum of two-month’s rent may be kept as a security deposit.

This one could especially come into play if you have had credit issues in the past.

While a landlord may negotiate terms on the lease (perhaps requiring multiple months payment upfront), a maximum of two months is the amount that may actually be held as a security deposit.

Any money taken as a security deposit – by an owner or a property management company – must sit in an escrow account and pay 1 ½% simple interest per year.

Your security deposit cannot be used by a landlord or property management company to pay for other expenses.

In fact, it must sit in an escrow account for the length of the lease and accrue interest.

At the time of this writing, that simple interest must be equal to 1 ½%.

If a landlord is keeping any portion of the deposit for repair work, all work must be done by a licensed contractor and documentation should be available showing receipt of payment.

This is a really good one to know, especially if a landlord is keeping money to fix something that is broken or otherwise needs clean/repair.

Even if the claim is legitimate, the landlord cannot simply get an estimate and keep your money (or do the work him/herself).

The work must be completed by a licensed contractor and if requested by the tenant, documentation should be available showing receipt of payment.


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