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Security Deposit Refunds: Austin Tenants Council Tips for Renters

Eviction & Other Landlord Issues

About security deposits in Texas residential leases

Here, learn about security deposits in residential leases. A security deposit secures the tenant's performance under the lease. The landlord may use it to cover damages or lost rent if the tenant breaches the lease. The deposit can't be used for normal wear and tear damages.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are summarized and reproduced from the website of the Austin Tenants Council. The Austin Tenants Council serves the Austin, Texas, area, but its website has useful information for all Texas residents. 

What is a security deposit for?

A security deposit is given to a landlord to secure performance under the lease. In other words, the security deposit is given so the landlord can recover any monies due under the lease such as costs for physical damages to the property or lost rent if the tenant breaks the lease. However, the landlord may not keep any part of the security deposit for physical damages that are the result of normal wear and tear.

Give proper move-out notice.

If a tenant doesn’t give a 30-day notice to vacate and the lease includes a provision that is either underlined or in bold print which requires the tenant to give 30-day notice as a condition for the refund of the security deposit, the landlord can keep the deposit. Failing to give a 30-day notice prior to moving out usually results in the tenant owing rent for the following month or other monies under the lease which often amount to more than the deposit. Even if there is nothing in the lease saying the tenant will forfeit the deposit, these additional costs will be deducted and the tenant may even end up owing the landlord money.

Give written notice of a forwarding address.

 The Texas Property Code requires the tenant to give written notice of forwarding address or the landlord does not have to mail the security deposit or itemized list of deductions within 30 days. If a tenant fails to turn in a forwarding address to the landlord, the tenant does not forfeit the right to the return of the security deposit or to the itemized list of deductions. The tenant will be entitled to these within 30 days after providing written notice of forwarding address to the landlord.

Do an extensive move-out inventory. 

A form provided by the landlord can be used or a tenant can simply make a written list of the condition of property at the time of move-out. A witness should be present and management should be invited to participate. If management does not appear, the tenant and witness should do the move-out inventory, documenting what is in good, clean condition and what is damaged. The more detail, the better.

Photographs and videotape are additional ways to document the condition of the property, but a written list should always be done. If management is present and states that the property is in good condition, the tenant should ask that it be put in writing. With a good move-in and a good move-out inventory, the tenant should have sufficient proof to settle any dispute over the return of the security deposit. The Austin Tenants’ Council can provide more information if a tenant has problems recovering the security deposit. See also ATC’s brochure, Security Deposit.

When must the landlord send you your deposit back?

A landlord must mail the security deposit 30 days after the tenant moves out. If the landlord is going to keep any part of the deposit, an itemized list of deductions with a written description of the damages must also be sent to the tenant by the 30th day. A tenant needs to do three things to ensure the return of the security deposit.

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