The landlord must return the security deposit within 14 days from the day the landlord discovers the tenant has moved out. The security deposit return should include a written statement itemizing any deductions taken out by the landlord. If the landlord fails to return the security deposit and statement within the 14-day period, the landlord must return the entire deposit.
A tenant who does not receive his or her deposit back or who disagrees with some of the deductions the landlord takes may go to Small Claims Court to try to recover the deposit. Tenants of apartments in Burlington can go to their local Housing Board of Review. If the landlord willfully withholds or fails to return the security deposit and written statement, the landlord may, at a judge’s discretion, be ordered to pay the tenant two times the amount of security, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs if the tenant goes to court.
Normal wear and tear: A landlord cannot deduct from a security deposit the costs of repairing normal wear and tear on the unit, including: routine maintenance, painting (unless careless, negligent, accidental or destructive tenant activity or actions make repainting necessary when it normally would not be), re-advertising the apartment (except in some circumstances when the tenant has broken the lease), renovation of the unit.
Return of Security Deposits- If the building is sold: An owner who sells a rental property must transfer all security deposits to the new owner, and the new owner must give the tenants his/ her name and address, and state that their deposit has been transferred. The new landlord is responsible for returning security deposits, even if the transfer of deposits never happened.
Burlington’s Security Deposit Law: Burlington has its own ordinance regulating security deposits. This law limits the total amount of deposit a landlord can ask for to no more than one month’s rent, regardless of whether it is called a security deposit, a damage deposit or a pet deposit, last month’s rent, etc. The law allows a landlord to require an additional payment equal to one half the amount of one month’s rent for allowing a pet or pets. This additional payment may not be charged for any animal that a tenant may have for assistance or treatment related to a physical or psychological disability. The Burlington law also requires landlords to put the deposit into an interest-bearing account, with an interest rate at least equivalent to a current Vermont bank passbook savings account, and to give the tenant the interest when the tenant moves or apply it to money the tenant owes the landlord. The law also requires tenants and landlords to fill out an inspection checklist at the beginning of a tenancy listing the damages that already exist. In addition, the ordinance states that a tenant may not use his or her deposit as last month’s rent unless the landlord agrees. Disputes can go to the Housing Board of Review within 30 days. For more information, call Vermont tenants.
Brattleboro Security Deposit Law: Brattleboro has a security deposit ordinance that limits security deposits to one month’s rent. Pet deposits are limited to one-half of the amount of one month's rent but may not be charged for any animal that mitigates a disability. For more information, call Vermont Tenants.
TIPS FOR GETTING YOUR SECURITY DEPOSIT BACK
BEFORE YOU MOVE IN:
- You and your landlord should walk through the empty apartment together and write down any damage or problems that need to be fixed. This is important so it is clear that you are not responsible for this damage when you move out. You should keep a copy of what you have written.
- You can download and print this checklist to use during your walk-through. It’s a good idea to complete the checklist, even if your landlord is not present, make copies, keep one for yourself and send one to your landlord.
- If the landlord will not do a walkthrough or write things down, you should:
- Take pictures before you move in!
- Place a copy of that day’s newspaper in full view in each picture and/or have a time stamp on your digital camera.
- Make a list of all the damages and things that need to be fixed, copy the list, and send it to your landlord in a letter asking that all items be repaired.
- Date the letter and keep a copy for yourself in a safe place.
- Be careful moving furniture—if you scratch walls or floors, the landlord may hold you liable for the damage.
DURING YOUR TENANCY:
- Vermont Statue – 9 V.S.A. Chapter 137 §4451(5) says:
“negligence, carelessness, accident or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of his or her household or their invitees or guests.” are damages the tenant can be held responsible for!
- Don’t Break your lease!
- Give proper notice to move out—Burlington law requires two full rental periods of notice. If you don’t give notice or move out before the end of your lease, the landlord can make you pay rent for all of the time s/he can’t get a new tenant into the unit. See the sample letter on page 19 of this packet.
BEFORE YOU MOVE OUT:
- Ask your landlord to do a walk-through with you 2-3 weeks before you move.
- Ask the landlord to point out anything you should correct before you move.
- Once you move out all of your property, take pictures.
- Do a walk-through of your empty apartment after you move out. Use the original checklist from when you moved in
- Let your landlord know in writing when you are completely out of the apartment. Give your landlord an address to send your deposit to.