Tips for Landlords: How to Complete the Security Deposit Itemization Form - dummies

Tips for Landlords: How to Complete the Security Deposit Itemization Form

By Robert S. Griswold, Laurence Harmon

After you, as the landlord, have inspected the rental unit and determined the proper charges, you need to prepare the Security Deposit Itemization Form. Complete this form and give the vacating resident a check for any balance due within your state’s maximum time guidelines.

Most states allow rental property owners 14 to 30 days to complete the accounting, but several states have no specific legal deadline. Make sure you don’t wait until the last minute because the consequences in most states are severe, including forfeiting your rights to any deductions and paying punitive damages.

When listing charges on your Security Deposit Itemization Form, take out your digital camera or video recorder and take the following steps to carefully document repairs and associated costs:

  1. State the item that’s damaged.

    List all damaged flooring, window coverings, fixtures, appliances, and pieces of furniture separately.

  2. Note the specific location of the damage.

    Document the room and which wall, ceiling, or corner of the room the damage is located. Use compass directions, if possible.

  3. Comment on the type and extent of the damage.

    Be sure to describe the damage in detail by using appropriate adjectives, such as filthy, substantial, excessive, minor, scratched, stained, soiled, ripped, cracked, broken, inoperative, missing, burned, or chipped.

  4. Note the type and extent of repair done.

    Describe the repair using words such as spackle, patch, paint, steam clean, deodorize, or refinish. Indicate if an item is so damaged that it has to be replaced and, if so, why. Indicating the item’s age is helpful, especially if it was new when the resident first occupied the rental unit, and its life span was supposed to exceed the length of the tenancy.

  5. Document the cost of the repair or replacement.

    List exactly how much you spent or plan to spend based on a third-party estimate. Include copies of receipts whenever possible.

Be specific. For example, if you merely indicate “Pet damage — $100” on the Security Deposit Itemization Form, you’re likely to be challenged. However, if you provide details like “Steam cleaned carpeting in living room to remove extensive pet urine stains — $100” and include your actual receipt, you greatly improve your chances of winning if the matter gets to court. (In fact, maybe you won’t be challenged in the first place.)

Don’t deduct from the security deposit unpaid rent that the resident withheld for good reason, such as the landlord failing to respond to a maintenance request regarding something that made the rental unit uninhabitable for a certain amount of time. If you’re unsure why a resident hasn’t paid the rent, find out before deducting it from the security deposit.