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Housing: Your Security Deposit

Quick Facts

 

Under North Carolina law, the landlord may apply the tenant’s security deposit for the following expenses: Unpaid rent; damages caused by the tenant; damages that are not the result of reasonable normal use; the cost of removal and storage of the tenant’s property; and court costs if the landlord sues to evict a tenant. The landlord may not apply the Security Deposit to any other use. A landlord may charge a reasonable fee or deposit for pets. 
 

Before you file a claim for refund of all or part of your security deposit, you must answer "yes" to all the following questions:

  • Did you pay a security deposit?

  • Did you move out more than 30 days ago? 

  • Does your landlord know where to send the security deposit or accounting?

  • Do you owe any rent, or damages not beyond reasonable normal use? If you do, is there a balance owed on the security deposit after applying it to the rent owed and/or damages? 
     

  • Your right to the security deposit refund cannot be changed by the lease. Parts of the lease that take away your right to a refund of the security deposit are invalid.

     

    Did you pay a Security Deposit?

     The best proof of payment of the security deposit is a receipt. If you do not have a receipt, then you should tell the magistrate that you paid a security deposit and how much you paid. 

     

    Did you move out more than 30 days ago?

    The landlord has to return the security deposit within thirty (30) days of the termination of the tenancy or itemize any damages and mail any remaining security deposit balance to the tenant. If the landlord cannot determine the damages within thirty (30) days, then the landlord has to send an interim accounting to the tenant within thirty (30) days, and then a final accounting within sixty (60) days.  

    The landlord has to return the security deposit within thirty (30) days of the termination of the tenancy or itemize any damages and mail any remaining security deposit balance to the tenant. If the landlord cannot determine the damages within thirty (30) days, then the landlord has to send an interim accounting to the tenant within thirty (30) days, and then a final accounting within sixty (60) days.  

     

    Does your landlord know where to send the security deposit?

    You must give your landlord an address to mail your security deposit, or inform him when you can pick it up.

      

    Do you owe any rent or damages, and if so, do you still have a balance left on the security deposit?

       If your landlord sent you an itemized statement of charges, then you will know what you were charged and the cost. You can dispute the charges and/or the cost reflected by the charges.    

     

    You are entitled to a refund of the security deposit or any balance left after deducting legitimate charges.
     Remember that you are not responsible for damages resulting from reasonable normal use. For example, after five years in a unit the walls may need repainting. In contrast, holes in the walls and broken fixtures are not considered normal use and the tenant is responsible for those damages. 

    Remember that you are not responsible for damages resulting from reasonable normal use. For example, after five years in a unit the walls may need repainting. In contrast, holes in the walls and broken fixtures are not considered normal use and the tenant is responsible for those damages. 

    If your landlord sent you an itemized statement of charges, then you will know what you were charged and the cost. You can dispute the charges and/or the cost reflected by the charges.

    Your right to a refund of the security deposit cannot be changed by the lease. Parts of a lease that take away the tenant’s right to the security deposit are invalid.

     

    Once you have answered the above questions, if your landlord refuses to refund the amount of your security deposit that you are entitled to receive, then you can file a complaint for money owed in Small Claims Court. Please follow the instructions in the enclosed manual.

     

    Check list for filing a claim for refund of security deposit

    1. Paid a security deposit.

    2. Moved out at least 30 days ago.

    3. Landlord knows where to send the refund

    4. Does not owe rent or damages.

    5. A balance remaining after deducting any amounts owed.

    6. File complaint in Small Claims court.

     


     


    To find other Legal Aid of North Carolina materials, including any materials mentioned in this document, go to LawhelpNC.org. If you need legal help please go to legalaidnc.org/.
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    Last Review and Update: Jul 03, 2012
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