Before the tenant takes possession of the property, the landlord generally requires the tenant pay an additional amount of money as a security deposit. The purpose of this money is to cover any losses the landlord may incur if the tenant breaches the lease or physically damages the property. In Pennsylvania, for example, the collection, holding and return of this security is controlled by statute, the provisions of which cannot be changed in the lease. Since each state has its own rules relating to the return of security deposits, you should certainly consult with the local laws to see what is required in your state. Pennsylvania law provides that a landlord may not legally require a security deposit in excess of two (2) months rent for the first year`s lease. For every year after the first year, a deposit equal to one month`s rent is all that may be required. After two (2) years, deposited funds in excess of $100.00 must be placed in a separate account, in an institution regulated by Pennsylvania or by federal authorities and the landlord must notify the tenant, in writing, of the name and address of the depository and the amount of the deposit. Within thirty (30) days after the termination of a lease, or upon surrender and acceptance of possession of the premises, the landlord is obligated to provide the tenant with a written list of any damages. The landlord may deduct the amount to fix the damages and return the balance of the escrow monies, if any, to the tenant. This reimbursement is not required if the landlord claims nonpayment of rent or other material breach of the lease. Any interest earned on the security deposit must be paid to the tenant at the termination of the lease, after the landlord deducts up to the allowable one percent (1%) administration fee. Other states have different laws concerning security deposits and some states have no statutes at all on this subject. If you have a dispute with your landlord over the amount or return of a security deposit, you must check your local law to find out what rights you have.
The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.