For NYC renters, the process of finding an apartment and signing the lease is troublesome enough as it is. Renters are asked to pay first, last month’s rent and security deposit at lease signing. As long as you leave your apartment in the same condition, you rented it, and you should have no trouble getting your security deposit back. However, sometimes it’s not that easy, and you may have a struggle on your hands to get your money back.
Here’s what you need to know about security deposits in NYC and how you can make it back.
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Why would my security deposit be withheld?Why would my security deposit be withheld?
The only grounds a landlord has for withholding all or part of your security deposit is:
- For the cost of wear and tear to the apartment
- Payment for unpaid rent
If you need to break your lease, it’s unlikely that you’ll get your deposit back. The reason being that it’s likely there will be a gap between you and the new tenant. The exception would be if you sublease your apartment and pass on the deposit cost to them. Also, if the landlord finds another tenant immediately, you will still be owed your rent.
However, unless the lease stipulates: a lease break would result in loss of your security deposit.
Who owns the security deposit?Who owns the security deposit?
Upon signing the lease and handing over your deposit, it is supposed to be held in trust by the landlord. Your security deposit should not be blended by the landlord with his/her monies, and the name and address of the bank in which kept specified in the lease, the account number, and amount plus interest. The bank also must be located in NY State.
If you are renting in a building with six or more units, your deposit must be placed in an interest-bearing account.
The only catch is that the landlord is entitled to keep one percent of the deposit amount each year as an administrative fee. You have three options in how you handle this interest. You can withdraw it, use it to pay part of the rent, or leave it in the deposit account.
How can I ensure I get my security deposit back?How can I ensure I get my security deposit back?
There is no full-proof way to ensure your deposit back refund, but you can better protect yourself by doing the following.
Carefully read your lease.Carefully read your lease.
Read your lease agreement carefully before signing. Make sure you understand what your freedoms and responsibilities as a renter. If you wish to make updates like painting or putting nails in the walls, make sure the lease allows it—violations of the rental lease agreement held as grounds for withholding the deposit.
Take photosTake photos
On both your first and last day, do a walk-through of the apartment, preferably with your landlord, and makes notes of the condition. Take pictures as proof that you found the place in a certain way.
What if my landlord won’t return my deposit?What if my landlord won’t return my deposit?
The landlord; allowed to hold the deposit for a; “reasonable” amount of time. It usually means 30 days or can be longer depending on what the lease states. If your landlord refuses or doesn’t reply, write a letter demanding it back.
Have it sent in a way that guarantees receipt, such as FedEx or certified mail, threatens to sue or file a complaint with the NYS Attorney General’s Office.
If the amount in dispute is under $5,000, a small claims court is your best choice. If over $5,000, you should hire a lawyer. Legally speaking, the onus is on the landlord to provide proof of damages that warrant withholding the deposit. As always, consult a lawyer if you are unsure of your rights.