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Security Deposit FAQ

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When do I have to return the security deposit? What if I miss the deadline?

Under Colorado law landlords have 30 days to return the security deposit or an accounting of the deductions explaining why the full deposit is not being returned. This can be extended up to 60 days but it must be written in the original lease. Landlords may choose to send the statement by certified mail or other trackable methods. If the landlord exceeds the time frame to return the deposit, they lose the right to withhold any money and must return the full amount but they can still sue for damages at a later time. 

The landlord has not returned my security deposit, what do I do?

If you have fulfilled all the requirements of the lease and have left the property in a condition at least as good as you found it, less normal wear and tear, you are entitled to your entire security deposit. If you disagree with the amount the landlord retained, you should first try to negotiate a return of the portion you feel is fair. It's helpful to provide documentation that supports your position, such as photographs, a check in/out sheet, etc. If the landlord still doesn't return an amount you are satisfied with you can call the mediation service to see if the situation is appropriate for mediation. If mediation is not appropriate or the other party doesn't want to mediate, you can write a seven-day demand letter stating that if you do not receive your security deposit within seven days, you will sue them for three times the amount of money withheld (treble damages). If you still do not receive the money you are asking for and want to pursue the matter, you may file a law suit. In order to receive treble damages, you must prove in court both willful and wrongful intent on the part of the landlord.

I am returning a security deposit to tenants and I deducted some of the money for damages. Do I need to include copies of the repair receipts when I return the remaining portion of the deposit?

The receipts and/or estimates for repairs should be retained, but they do not have to be sent to the tenant with the initial statement. However, if the tenant challenges the deductions and requests the receipts and/or estimates the landlord has the burden of providing them to demonstrate that the deductions were fair and proper. Deductions should be based on reasonable costs that can be demonstrated if necessary, such as professional repair estimates and merchandise receipts, or verification of typical hourly rates for cleaning services or contractors in the Boulder area.

My landlord charged me what she paid at the hardware store to replace a closet door that I broke. The door I broke was old and worn. Is this fair?

Landlords may only deduct the depreciated value of damaged items, (and for the labor to perform the repairs), not the full replacement value of the item, unless the item was brand new. Depreciated value can be hard to determine but it is usually a function of original cost, life expectancy, and age.

My landlord charged me for a burn mark on the kitchen counter but then never had the counter fixed before the next tenant moved in. Can I get my money back?

A tenant can be held accountable for damages and cleaning costs even if the landlord chooses not to remedy the problem, unless the damages are a code violation for licensing the property as a rental unit.

As a landlord, what type of expenses/damages can I use the security deposit for?

The security deposit can be used for any of the following:

  • Unpaid rent or utility bills owed by the tenant
  • Payment for damages to the premises beyond "normal wear and tear"
  • Cleaning the tenant agreed to in the lease, such as professional carpet cleaning. If not specified in the lease, the property should be returned to the condition in which it was received, less normal wear and tear
  • Any other breach of the lease causing property or financial damage to the landlord

"Normal wear and tear" is defined by Colorado law to mean "that deterioration which occurs based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattel  by the tenant or members of his household or their invitee or guests."

I gave my landlord a 700 dollar security deposit. I need to move out one month earlier than I expected. My rent is 600 dollars. Can't I just move out and have my security deposit apply to my rent?

A tenant may not use the security deposit for last month's rent except by written permission of the landlord. The security deposit exists to cover any damages, unpaid rent, utility bills and other financial burden caused by the tenant during the course of their tenancy. Tenants who use the security deposit for last month's rent without permission may be sued for damages or may experience other financial impacts.