Moving – especially in New York City – often requires sizable upfront costs. Things like hiring movers and renting trucks can be expensive. On top of that, you probably will need to pay a security deposit when signing your lease.
A security deposit can be a hefty sum. As such, tenants should know their rights when paying, using and getting back their deposit. Below are five essential items.
- There are limits to the amount a landlord requires. As noted in this article, landlords in New York City cannot collect more than one month of rent as a security deposit. If your landlord asks for more, like the first and last month’s rent, you should speak up.
- Landlords must store it responsibly. The money you pay is not just cash in a landlord’s pocket. He or she must keep it separate from personal accounts in a New York banking institution. In some cases, they are required to place it in an interest-bearing account. Tenants may collect interest earned from the account although at the current rate this is next to zero percent.
- Nonrefundable deposits are illegal. Your landlord must return a deposit (minus any deductions) to you upon completing a lease.
- Landlords have 14 days to return the deposit and list of deductions. When your lease is up, your landlord has 14 days to return your deposit after you return your keys and vacate the apartment. He or she must also include with the money a detailed list of any deductions. If the landlord fails to deliver this itemized list within 14 days, they forfeit their right to retain and a portion of the deposit. If you believe the landlord has wrongfully retained the deposit or a portion of it, the tenant’s option is to file a complaint with the New York State Attorney General’s office or sue in Small Claims court if the amount is under $10,000 or New York City Civil Court if between $10,000-25,000.
- Landlords can only deduct money from a deposit for certain reasons. Acceptable reasons for retaining part of a security deposit include damage beyond reasonable wear and tear, removal of garbage or other items you leave behind, cost of returning the space to its original state (if required in the lease), violations of the lease and unpaid rent or utilities.
Unfortunately, you cannot count on a landlord to explain your rights or include them properly in your lease. However, this information can give you a broad overview of your rights regarding security deposits. If a landlord misuses or unlawfully retains your security deposit, you may need to take legal action to get it back.