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
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:
1. The total amount of such charges cannot be more than one and one-half
EXAMPLE: Monthly rent is $350. The lease calls for a $175 security
deposit, and last month's rent of $350. The total security charged is $525.
Since this equals one and one-half month's rent, it is therefore an acceptable
amount under the law.
2. Cleaning and redecorating charges are not considered part of the security
deposit. However, if those charges are to be nonrefundable, that fact must
be stated in writing by the landlord. If it isn't in writing, these charges
cannot automatically be withheld when you move out.
EXAMPLE: Your lease specifies a security deposit and a cleaning
deposit. However, the lease does not say that the cleaning deposit is "nonrefundable."
When you move out, you clean the place thoroughly, but the landlord does
not return the cleaning deposit. In order to legally withhold the cleaning
deposit in this situation, the landlord must treat it as any other security
deposit and give you a written, itemized statement of the amount spent
for cleaning your former residence. (See the section below titled "After
You Move Out" for a complete description of the law concerning the return
of security deposits.)
3. Make sure the charges you pay at the beginning of your tenancy are clearly
explained in your lease or rental agreement
EXAMPLE: Your lease specifies a security deposit of $350, which
is equal to a month's rent. When you sign the lease, the apartment manager
tells you that you can use the security deposit in lieu of your last month's
rent. However, the written lease says nothing about this arrangement. In
this case, insist that the lease be changed to reflect this agreement.
If you do not, and you later get into a dispute about this provision, the
written lease provision will probably determine the outcome.
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
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
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:
1) return your security deposit in full; or
2) deliver to you an itemized written notice of the damages or unpaid rent
to which the deposit has been applied, along with any remaining amount
of the security deposit.
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
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:
A landlord shall not demand or receive security, however denominated, including,
but not limited to, prepaid rent in an amount or value in excess of one
and one-half month's rent. This subsection does not prohibit a tenant from
voluntarily paying more than one and one-half month's rent in advance.
Cleaning and redecorating deposits, if nonrefundable, must be so stated
in writing by the landlord.
Upon termination of the tenancy, property or money held by the landlord
as prepaid rent and security may be applied to the payment of accrued rent
and the amount of damages which the landlord has suffered by reason of
the tenant's noncompliance with Section 33-1341 all as itemized by the
landlord in a written notice delivered to the tenant together with the
amount due within fourteen days after termination of the tenancy and delivery
of possession and demand by the tenant.
If the landlord fails to comply with subsections B and C of this section
the tenant may recover the property and money due him together with damages
in an amount equal to twice the amount wrongfully withheld.
This section does not preclude the landlord or tenant from recovering other
damages to which he may be entitled under this chapter.
The holder of the landlord's interest in the premises at the time of the
termination of the tenancy is bound by this section.