This is important information for both landlord and tenant.
But the most alarming statistic: 36 percent of respondents said that their landlords offered no explanation at all for why they were withholding security deposits. Well, guess what: That's not always legal. In New York, for example, landlords are required to return security deposits, minus any legal deductions, within a certain period of time. In California, there are only four reasons why a landlord may withhold a security deposit: to cover unpaid rent, to clean the rental when a tenant moves out, to repair damages caused by the renter, or to replace furnishings (only if the lease agreement explicitly states that this is allowable). And a landlord must state the reason to the renter for why his or her security deposit is being withheld. Landlord.com has a list of security deposit laws in all 50 states to help you find the rules where you live.
Read the whole article (opens in a new tab so you may easily comment here): Security Deposit Refund: 1 in 4 Renters Dont Get Their Money Back, Survey Finds | AOL Real Estate. Also read our added comments as follows:
Taking photos is good, but dating them in a way that will stand up in court is the challenge. Put existing damage in writing in the Rental Agreement. A photo of that existing damage will then be an easier sell to the judge or arbiter if it comes to that. Any damage that is there when the tenant is moving out that wasn't itemized in the damage section of the Agreement will then be less a bone of contention between the parties.
If there is a Cleaning Deposit, per se, then the Security Deposit might not necessarily kick in unless there's more than cleaning to do or unless the two deposits and how they can be applied are expressly stated in the Rental Agreement.
A poorly drafted Rental Agreement will usually be ruled against the drafter (who is typically the landlord).
Also, check any Cleaning Deposit or the Security Deposit for just how clean the property must be left to get/give a full or partial refund.
If you are a landlord, make sure your lawyer who drafts your Standard Rental Agreement has E&O Insurance (Errors and Omissions) in case he or she does an unprofessional job that starts costing you way too much money trying to defend.
Be prepared to update your contract documents too. When it comes to new or renewing tenants, use the newer language.