The security deposit you pay when you start renting an apartment can be a contentious topic. There is a history of landlords and tenants fighting over when the landlord can withhold the security deposit. Many people also misunderstand how security deposits work and don’t realize that they need to be paid back with interest at the end of the tenant’s stay.
There are some things your security deposit should never be used for. Any damages that are not your fault need to be seen by the landlord. What is the landlord responsible for? They need to cover damages caused by wear and tear, natural perils, and other occurrences that were not your fault.
But what happens if you do cause the damage? Is your security deposit all that is at risk?
Calculating Your Security Deposit
It is important to calculate what your security deposit can cover and it is not as simple as comparing the cost of repairs to the sum of your initial deposit. Instead, you need to consider the security deposit and any interest that has accrued. If the landlord has not put your security deposit into an interest-bearing account, they are still responsible for the interest it otherwise would have earned.
Ask your landlord how much your security deposit is now worth, and do your calculations to verify this. Then check whether it covers all of the damages you caused. If not, what happens next?
Renters’ insurance does not cover the landlord’s property but rather your own possessions. Nonetheless, it may be used to pay out claims made against you by the landlord. Depending on the type of damages, as well as whether they can be considered accidental and not due to neglect, you may be able to claim from your renter’s insurance.
This is because renters insurance covers personal liability. It includes damage that you do to the person or property of others. If you have renters insurance and can claim for the outstanding amount, this is the best-case scenario. It will impact your claims history, potentially leading to higher premiums, but you will not be left out of pocket when you need to cover thousands of dollars worth of damage.
Make Payment (or a Payment Plan)
If the damage was your fault, you would need to cover it even if you don’t have insurance. You will need to find the funds to pay back your landlord, who can demand payment be made as soon as possible. But what if you simply cannot afford it?
Speak to your landlord about a payment plan. They may be willing to let you pay the outstanding amount in installments. This is most likely when your apartment is owned by an investment firm or by an individual with many rentals. They may be able to afford to pay for the repairs while they allow you to pay back the money over time.
If they don’t let you pay the money back in installments, you may have to look at alternative options such as personal loans or credit cards.
Small Claims Court
If you don’t pay back the funds, your landlord may take you to the small claims court. This can be a costly process for both you and the landlord, and you should try to avoid this scenario at all costs. If you cannot find the funds, your landlord may accept that going to the small claims court will not change that. The expenses you incur may make it harder to pay them back.
Nonetheless, it is up to them to determine what to do. Some landlords are very reasonable, while others do, unfortunately live up to the negative reputation.
You may lose more than your security deposit if you damage your landlord’s apartment. Find out how much your deposit is worth and see what you can do to pay the difference.