How to keep your security deposit in Texas

The refundable security deposit is important to every single renter in the state of Texas.  It’s a nice sum of money that will help you pay for new home furnishings, cover your first mortgage payment, or simply add to your savings account. The security deposit is one of the most contentious points in the entire landlord/tenant relationship.

However, despite the fact that you moved out of your old home many days ago, you have yet to receive your security deposit. What’s going on? 

What is a Security Deposit

In Texas, a security deposit is any money, other than rent, given to a landlord by a tenant before occupancy. This deposit should only be used to pay for any damages that occur while the tenant inhabits the premises. 

It’s the Law

It turns out that Texas law governs how long a security deposit can really be kept, and it may be longer than you think.

Security deposits could be kept for up to 30 days

That’s correct. A landlord has the legal right to keep a security deposit for one month after you drop off the keys and leave, assuming you drop it off at the end of your lease.  Why the delay? 

When a renter violates the contract in certain ways, the landlord has the right to keep a portion or all of the security deposit. And besides, a security deposit is needed specifically for this purpose. The lease contract should specify the security deposit specifications. Generally, the security deposit can be kept to cover past-due rent, cleaning fees, and repairs that go above and beyond normal wear and tear.

Landlords must have enough time to fully assess the property and calculate costs in order to determine how much to subtract from the security deposit if needed. The landlord must then provide a formal notification explaining why the security deposit was withdrawn or subtracted, as well as a detailed list of the deductions. This is called an itemized list.  

The legal authorities in Texas have determined that 30 days is a reasonable period of time for the landlord to complete this without unfairly harming the tenants. 

Pet Deposits 

A pet deposit is an unique security deposit that may be considered necessary if the renter desires to have a pet on the premises. The same rules are applicable to pet deposits, except if the deposit is expressly stated to be non-refundable. Don’t confuse pet deposits with pet rent. Pet rent is the monthly fee you pay for your pet to occupy the premises. 

Tenants Must Follow Certain Rules 

You must give your landlord written notice that you are moving out of your rental unit.

You can use certified mail to send your notice to your landlord.

What should be done if a Landlord Keeps a Security Deposit for More Than 30 Days?

 The landlord is required to return some or all of the security deposit if you leave the property in good condition, provide notice of your intent to move out, and provide a change of address for where the payment method should be sent. It is uncommon, but a landlord may keep a security deposit after the 30-day period has passed.

 If this occurs: 

1) Send a Letter 

Send a demand letter in writing. The very first option is to send the landlord a documented demand letter requesting that your security deposit be returned. Acknowledge that it has been over 30 days since your departure and be sure to mention your forwarding address once more.

Allow time for the landlord to respond. Expect 7-10 days for a response from the landlord. If they do not respond or state that they will not return the deposit without a valid reason and an individual tax list of deductions, it is time to take legal action.

2) File a Suit in Court

It’s time to file a lawsuit in small claims court. Landlord liabilities are outlined in Property Code Section 92.109. If your security deposit is improperly withheld, you may sue for the following: 

 $100 + three times the value of the incorrectly withheld security deposit + court costs + attorney fees 

The lawsuit should be filed with the Justice of the Peace, also known as JP court. It may take a while but as long as you did not violate the lease, paid your rent in full, and left the place clean, you should be able to obtain your security deposit money back.

What Happens if I Win

  • If your landlord doesn’t show up to court you will win. 
  • If they show up and you win the case then you will have to collect.

Just because you win doesn’t mean your landlord will pay you. You may have to take extra steps to enforce the judgment. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is the timeline for getting your security deposit back in Texas?

The landlord has 30 days to get your deposit back to you. If they deducted items, they must included an itemized list.

Who is responsible for cleaning the property?

In Texas, tenants shouldn’t be charged for having to clean the property. This doesn’t mean that tenants can leave trash in the property. All personal

items must be removed. 

Who is responsible for returning the security deposit?

The landlord is responsible for returning the security deposit?

Where is the security deposit kept?

The security deposit is kept in a separate bank account. The money shouldn’t be deposited in the landlords personal account. 

How much can a landlord charge deposit Texas?

There is no set amount for how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit in Texas. Most landlord’s will charge one month’s rent as a deposit. 

What damages are considered normal wear and tear?

Normal wear and tear can be defined as the gradual deterioration of materials and finishes that occurs with age and use. It is important to note that normal wear and tear does not include damage that is the result of negligence or abuse.

We hope you found this blog post How to Get your Security Deposit Back in Texas useful. Be sure to check out our post Detailed Move Out Cleaning Checklist You Should Know for more great tips!

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