5 Common Ways People Lose Their Security Deposit

Published online: Apr 17, 2020 / Renters

As a renter, you are probably familiar with the cash guarantee of a security deposit. Security deposits protect landlords if the tenant damages the property or doesn’t follow the terms outlined in the lease. Getting a security deposit back in full can help you cover the costs it took to move somewhere else and can help cover the expenses of a new security deposit. If you want your security deposit back, educate yourself on common ways people lose their deposit so you can avoid making the same mistakes. 

  1. Unreasonable Damage

A few new stains on the carpet or discoloring on the walls are signs of normal wear and tear. However, unreasonable damage like holes in the walls or painting the walls without permission will likely result in you losing a portion of your deposit. The more money your landlord has to spend to repair the damage to the rental, the less money you’ll receive back in your deposit. 

  1. Repairs

When you move in, take note of any existing damage to the unit. Thoroughly check every area and document any repairs that need to be done. Taking pictures and sending them to your landlord ensures that you don’t have to pay for any damage that you didn’t cause. Also, if you try to repair something in the rental yourself without contacting the landlord about it, you can expect to pay for it if something goes wrong. Be sure to read your lease about how to respond to any necessary repairs.  

  1. Not Reading the Lease

The biggest mistake you can make when moving into a rental property is not reading the lease. Even if you are desperate for a place to stay, you should still read the entire lease and talk to the landlord about any unclear phrases you find or questions you have. Reading the lease and communicating with the landlord can help you get your security deposit back if you decide to move in. It also opens up a clear channel of communication between you and the landlord. 

  1. Leaving Stuff Behind

Your rental unit isn’t a dump. When you move, don’t leave unwanted furniture there for your landlord to take care of. If there’s something you don’t want to take with you, host a yard sale or donate it to a thrift shop. Landlords typically deduct from the security deposit if they have to take care of leftover furniture. Besides leftover furniture, you’ll also receive less money in your deposit if you leave the place a mess that they have to clean. 

  1. You Didn’t Give Enough Notice

If you suddenly need to move, you still need to observe the notice period. Check your lease to know what the waiting period is, typically 30 or 60 days, and give the landlord written notice that you are moving. If you fail to meet the notice period your landlord can keep your security deposit as reimbursement for rent you would have paid. 


Losing your deposit is disappointing, especially because you can always use those funds somewhere else. By avoiding these common mistakes, you will be more likely to receive your security deposit back in full or close to it. Be sure to keep everything you send to your landlord though so you have a paper trail to reference just in case.