Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale LTD.


By Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale LTD
October 9, 2019


By Michael DeSantis

 When a tenant hands over a security deposit to their landlord, they completely expect to receive it back in full at the end of the lease agreement. However, landlords and tenants both have rights when it comes to the handling and management of the security deposit. Both landlords and tenants can glean valuable security deposit tips and protect themselves by understanding their rights. In addition to the advice in this blog, always check your lease agreement for any specifics on getting your security deposit back.


  1. Understand the meaning of “normal wear and tear.” In the state of Illinois, the landlord is allowed to retain part or all of the security deposit if the damage to the rental unit exceeds “normal wear and tear.” This term is somewhat subjectively defined but clear damage (such as a hole punched through a wall) or other items which require major repair (a broken railing) are clearly beyond normal “wear and tear.” However, the landlord is usually not allowed to retain part of the security deposit to cover the costs of preparing the unit for the new tenant, such as general carpet cleaning and refreshing the paint.


  1. Pay Your Rent! A landlord is perfectly within their legal rights to deduct any unpaid rent from the security deposit. Contrary to what some tenants believe, your security deposit is not your last month’s rent.


  1. If you want to change the apartment, communicate with your landlord FIRST. Before making any significant changes to the unit (i.e., painting the walls a bright blue), a tenant should discuss their plans with the landlord. More than likely, the tenant may be responsible for returning the wall to the original color before vacating, or additional money may be deducted from the security deposit to compensate for extra effort on the part of the hired painter. Small pin holes for hanging pictures are usually considered “normal wear and tear” but large holes and brackets for mounting something special to the wall might require special drywall repair and may be cause for a security deposit deduction.


  1. If something minor fails, report it to the landlord right away. Minor repairs and failures can become major expenses for both the tenant and the landlord if not handled promptly. For example, if a faucet is loose, report it to the landlord to fix and he should respond promptly. If you ignore it and the sprayer comes off one day and sprays water everywhere, creating water damage and a bigger problem. Your responsibility for reporting the need for a repair will be questioned.  However, if you had previously reported the situation, the responsibility for a timely repair falls to the landlord. Your lease agreement or the municipal ordinances in your area should indicate the repairs a landlord must make. You can also check the State of Illinois Residential Tenant’s Right to Repair Act if you feel your landlord is not responding.


  1. Take photographic evidence. If you have moved into a unit in need of repair, take photographic evidence of the condition of the unit and send the photograph with a notification in writing, to the landlord. Not only will the landlord be responsible for responding to the request for a repair, but you will then possess written and photographic proof that the damage existed prior to your move-in and you should not be held financially responsible when it comes time to return the security deposit.


  1. Demand explanation of any retained security deposit. Under a lot of form leases and some ordinances, a landlord is legally required to provide an itemized statement of damages to the unit before they can deduct the cost of repairs from a security deposit within 30 days from the date the tenant vacates the unit. These situations should not be a surprise to the tenant.

Did you know that you may be legally entitled to the interest on your security deposit? Landlords have strict rules regarding security deposits and one of them is to have a separate fund in an interest-bearing account [Chicago RLTO 05-12-080 (a) ]. Although the current interest rate is only a fraction of a percent, the landlord is still entitled to distribute it to the tenant.

We always recommend that tenants attempt to work out any disputes about security deposits with their landlord first before calling an attorney. However, for security deposit tips and help in protecting your landlord or tenant rights, contact the tenant/landlord attorneys at Gardi, Haught, Fischer & Bhosale LTD by clicking on our free case evaluation button below.

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