Security Deposits - Fact Sheet

Authored By: Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
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Security Deposits: Fact Sheet



What is a security deposit?

A security deposit is money paid in advance by the tenant to the landlord tocover potential property damage. Rent, application fees, rent paid in advance, and non-refundable fees are not considered security deposits. Unless you live in public or subsidized housing, there is no limit on the amount that can be charged as a security deposit.

Can I subtract the deposit from my last month’s rent?  

No. Security deposits are separate from rentpayments, and different laws apply. Always pay your rent. Not paying any part of the last month’s rent can make you liable to the landlord for three times the amount of rent you don’t pay. If you owe rent and there is no dispute over the amount you owe, the landlord can keep the security deposit for the amount you owe. If you move out before your lease is up, your landlord may subtract a reletting fee from your security deposit. There is no limit on the amount of the reletting fee, but if it is not reasonable it might be illegal.


When can my landlord withhold my security deposit for damages?

The deposit can only be used torepair substantial damage to the property unless there are extra charges stated in the lease. Your landlord cannot withhold for damage caused by previous tenants, or for normal wear and tear to the property.


  • Normal wear and tear – A worn carpet, peeling paint, or dusty fixtures are examples.


  • “Substantial” damage - Damage due to accident, carelessness, or abuse of the property. A brokenwindow, hole in the wall, or a large carpet stain are examples. You are responsible even if the damage was caused by a guest.


  • Charges in the lease – Your lease may have special charges that can be taken out of the securitydeposit. For example, if your lease says that you can’t paint the walls, but you do, some of your deposit can be withheld as a re-painting fee.


How can I get a refund of my security deposit?

Protect your rights, and follow the terms of your lease.



What if I’ve moved and my landlord still won’t refund my deposit?

Your landlord has30 daysfromthe date you move (or 30 days from the date you give written notice of your forwarding address) to refund your security deposit. If the landlord withholds for repairs, you are entitled to a written, itemized list of the damage and cost of repairs and balance of your deposit after the repairs are subtracted. If you disagree with the deductions or your deposit is not refunded, you can sue in small claims court to recover the entire amount. Contact the Justice of the Peace court in the precinct where the property is located for instructions and forms. Find more help from the Texas Tenant Advisor,

© TRLA 2013

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Last Review and Update: Feb 19, 2015