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EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SECURITY DEPOSITS

Most landlords require the payment of a security deposit when you rent an apartment . **The Arizona Residential Landlord/Tenant Act governs the payment and return of security deposits. Know your rights before you sign the lease!

BEFORE YOU SIGN THE LEASE

Landlords usually ask for a security deposit at the time the lease is signed. You may be asked to pay the last month's rent, as well. Regardless of what it is called in the lease or rental agreement, any sum you pay the landlord to hold as security for damages to the premises or unpaid rent is considered "security." Here are some important facts to know about these charges:

BEFORE YOU MOVE IN

You may legally be held responsible for any damage you do to the premises while you live there. However, you are not responsible for normal "wear and tear." To protect yourself, insist that the landlord inspect the premises before you move in. Write down any damage or problems on a sheet of paper that both you and the landlord sign, along with an acknowledgment that these damages or problems existed before you moved in and you are not responsible for them.
If the premises aren't clean when you move in, and you have to clean them, ask the landlord to make an adjustment to your first month's rent, or change the lease to indicate that you do not have to clean before you move out, or to give you some other concession for having to take possession of a dirty residence. Remember, by not cleaning the premises before you moved in, the landlord has saved money or time or both.

BEFORE YOU MOVE OUT

Ask the landlord to inspect the premises after you have moved your belongings out and cleaned. During the inspection, write down all of the damages for which you will be held responsible and the additional cleaning the landlord wants you to do, if any. If you dispute any of the damage items, discuss it with the landlord at that time. Be sure to have the pre-move in checklist with you to resolve any disputes about damage that was done before you moved in.
This pre-move out inspection gives you the opportunity to rectify some of the problems that may cause you to lose your security deposit. If you and the landlord can agree on the damage and cleaning items, sign the list and get the landlord to do the same, indicating which items you will repair or clean before turning the premises back over to the landlord.
At the time you turn the keys over to the landlord, give him or her a letter asking for the return of your security deposit within 14 days and giving an address where it can be mailed or delivered.

AFTER YOU MOVE OUT

Under Arizona law, your landlord has 14 days after you deliver possession of the premises and make demand to do one of two things:


If the landlord does not comply with these requirements, you may file a lawsuit in Small Claims Court and recover the amount of the deposit wrongfully withheld plus twice the amount wrongfully withheld.
(Please be aware, however, that if you have caused damage to the premises, or have not paid all the rent due, the landlord can still hold you responsible by filing a countersuit against you for the cost of repairs, unpaid rent and other damages.)
If you have not received your security deposit or an itemized explanation of the items to which it has been applied, within 14 days, write the landlord a letter. In the letter explain that you are aware of your rights under Arizona's landlord tenant laws and demand the return of your security deposit (or the portion to which you are entitled) within a specified period of time. Let the landlord know that if your deposit is not returned within that time, you are prepared to file suit in Small Claims Court to enforce your rights.

FOR OTHER LANDLORD/TENANT PROBLEMS

Drop by the Center for Veterans and Off-Campus Students on the 3rd floor of the Student Union and pick up a copy of the "Renter's Handbook." The handbook contains the complete text of the Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act as well as sample letters regarding many problems and situations that may arise in dealing with your landlord. If you have a question that isn't answered by this pamphlet, or need advice about another aspect of landlord/tenant law, call Legal Services at 621-2782 for an appointment.

**The Arizona Residential Landlord Tenant Act is found in Arizona Revised Statutes Sections 33-1301 through 1381. The provisions regarding security deposits is Section 33-1321, which reads in full: