What is a security deposit? (KSA 58-2550)
A security deposit is nothing more than an exchange. It’s a two-way promise; both parties must uphold their end of the agreement. Here’s how it’s supposed to work: when you move in, you give the landlord money, they hand you the keys. When you move out, you hand them the keys, they give your money back.
This money cannot be used! They can’t touch it till you move out, when they give it back to you.
- If the place is unfurnished, a deposit can’t be more than one month’s rent.
- If it’s pre-furnished, they can only charge you up to one and a half times rent.
- If you have a pet, a separate pet deposit can’t be more than half of rent.
What are your responsibilities as a tenant? (KSA 58-2555)
- Have the place clean when you move out (within reasonable expectation; if your apartment was in a deteriorating state when you moved in, you aren’t responsible for that)
- Don’t damage or deface the property, or you’ll be responsible for the damages
What are the landlord's responsibilities? (KSA 58-2550)
- Perform a move-in and move-out walkthrough with you
- Maintain the premises up to rental code, in safe, livable condition
- Hold your deposit for safekeeping
- Give your deposit back, or provide you an itemized list of all deductions from your deposit within 30 days of when you move out
What are landlords ONLY allowed to withhold your deposit for?
- Property damage that you’re responsible for
- If you fail to pay rent
What are landlords NOT allowed to withhold your deposit for?
- Normal wear & tear: deterioration caused by everyday use, not by abuse or neglect. For
any deterioration to be considered damage, it must be not naturally occuring, caused by reckless misuse
or deliberate destruction.
- Carpet wear or discoloration
- Signs of wear in places that often get touched/used (light switches, hinges, knobs)
- Pinholes in the walls from hanging photos/posters
To best protect yourself from having your deposit stolen on normal wear & tear, try as best as you can to leave the condition of the unit exactly as it was when you moved in.
- Repairs necessary to maintain the property up to code
- Damages you didn’t cause
- Any damage that was already present when you moved in is not your responsibility. This is why it’s so important to document your move-in and move out!
How do we get our deposits back?
Move-in and move-out walkthroughs
Make sure the landlord doesn’t try to charge you for damages on the condition it was already in! Click this link to see our move-in and move-out guide: https://www.renterstogetherlfk.org/moving-in.html
Send a written demand for your deposit when you move out
This doesn’t have to be super formal! All you need to communicate is:
- I am moving out on ___ date.
- I want my deposit back.
- Send it to me at ___ address.
If you can, ask the post office to send it as a certified letter so you get a receipt when it gets delivered!
If you don’t get your deposit back within 14 days or an itemized list within 30 days, what can you do? Sue in small claims! (KSA 58-2550c)
By state law, if your landlord wrongfully withholds your deposit, you will be awarded one and a half times the amount withheld. Small claims court might sound scary, but it’s a fairly simple process!
- Step 1
- Go to Douglas County Small Claims, submit your evidence, pay a $40-80 filing fee and fill out a form which states who your landlord is and what amount you’re suing for. They will assign you a court date.
- Step 2
- Show up for court! Answer questions, explain your case, explain why you should have this money back and why the law backs you up.
How else can we protect ourselves from security deposit theft?
You can contact Lawrence Code Enforcement!
Lawrence has an inspection program where you can submit complaints online, but the most effective way to hold your landlord accountable for neglect is to call Code Enforcement at (785) 832-3345. They’ll send a Code Enforcement Officer to your place to inspect it for rental code violations, and if they find any, the City will serve the landlord with a Notice of Violation.
One the notice is made, your landlord will have 30 days to fix all violations. If they neglect to make the required repairs, the City then take municipal action to reprimand the landlord, up to even revoking their rental license.
You can organize with your neighbors!
Chances are, if you’re facing security deposit theft, your landlord is screwing their other tenants too. Reach out to your neighbors, friends, and fellow renters and talk to each other about the issues you’re facing. We might not be able to get much success facing a landlord alone, but we have a much greater chance if we go up against them together. Learn more about tenant organizations here.
You can join Renters Together LFK!
Renters Together LFK has been hard at work bringing tenants’ issues into public view. We help renters unite with their neighbors to tackle their renting issues and take on their landlord. Being a renter is always a precarious situation in Lawrence, but since half of all residents are renters, we’ve got the power to change that. Landlords have spent a great deal of time and money trying to snuff out the concerns of half the city; now we have a voice.
Help advance renters' power in Lawrence! You can join on this website by hitting the big red 'Join' button at the top or bottom of any page, or by reaching out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.