The first time I met with a lawyer was while I was in college in Austin. I lived in an apartment with two of my cousins. Our lease was ending. We told the property management company our forwarding address and asked when we might expect back our security deposit. “Never,” was the response. One benefit of attending UT at the time was that we had occasional, free access (yeah right, we paid for it in tuition costs) to a lawyer on staff at the university.
A security deposit is any advance of money that’s primarily intended to secure performance under a residential lease. It is not a rental application deposit or an advance payment of rent. A landlord generally can’t withhold any of part of a residential security deposit for normal wear and tear, but the landlord may deduct charges for which the tenant is otherwise responsible under the lease.
We scheduled a meeting with the property manager. We courteously told her that we believed that she was wrong. The reason she wanted to withhold our deposit was to cover items of normal wear and tear. We explained what the lawyer had told us. And we negotiated a refund of our security deposit.
Sometimes disagreements arise simply because parties don’t know or completely understand their legal obligations. Visiting with someone who knows the law can sometimes help.
In our “Law 101″ posts, we define terms, phrases, or concepts with the goal of conveying core information in order to set the stage for more complex discussions.