A security deposit is collected by landlords to cover any damage that’s left behind when a tenant moves out of the property. It also protects you against financial loss if the tenant breaks the lease or leaves early without paying.
In Virginia, landlords are permitted to charge a security deposit amount up to the equivalent of two months of rent. Most residential leases in the area require an amount that equals one month of rent. For example, if you charge $1,800 per month for your property, the security deposit paid by the tenant is $1,800.
Before a tenant moves in, do an inspection report with pictures and videos to accurately document the condition of the property. This will help you when the tenant moves out and you’re deciding what to charge from the security deposit. You can use those same pictures and videos to demonstrate how the condition of the property may have changed during the course of the lease. With this documentation, you’re protected in court against any claims an angry tenant might make when the full deposit isn’t returned. Provide the tenant with a written report at the time of move in and make sure they return within five days after move in. This inspection report should note any damages that were discovered during the inspection.
Returning the Security Deposit
When the lease is terminated and your tenant moves out, Virginia law requires you to return the security deposit within 45 days. You can deduct any charges that are allowed and documented. If you’re keeping a portion of the deposit, you need to itemize the amount and the reasons. Return that in writing to the tenant within those 30 days. You can withhold the security deposit for unpaid rent, late charges, unpaid utility bills, damage that exceeds normal wear and tear and any other damages that you included in your lease as reasons the deposit may be withheld.
Sometimes, the amount of damage is more than what was paid in a security deposit. When this happens, get estimates for the repairs and notify the tenant within 30 days of move out that these repairs need to be made and the full security deposit will not cover the costs.
Security deposits are often a source of confusion for landlords, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions. The Realty Solutions Group is a property management company serving Alexandria and Northern VA.