Can an Apartment Require a Non Refundable Deposit?

by Marie Huntington
Nonrefundable fees cover the costs of maintaining an apartment community.

Most states allow apartment landlords to require applicants and tenants to pay nonrefundable deposits. The nonrefundable fees are used to cover different expenses that the landlord must pay to maintain the units, such as cleaning fees, pet deposits and unpaid rental obligations. A few states prohibit landlords from charging tenants security deposits that are nonrefundable.

Application Fee

Many apartments require all applicants to pay a nonrefundable application fee. The application fee covers the costs associated with the application process, including residential background checks and credit checks. The nonrefundable application fee is usually inexpensive, and most applicants are required to submit a money order or check along with their completed applications. Upon approval, the apartment manager may provide you with the opportunity to apply the application fee to cover a portion of the security deposit, but it depends on the policies of the apartment community. If you are not approved for an apartment, the application fee may be refunded to you, if this process complies with the terms and conditions of the apartment application process.

Security Deposit

Most apartment complexes require all incoming tenants to pay a security deposit in addition to the amount of the first month of rent. The security deposit must be paid no later than your move-in date, and some apartment managers require applicants who have been approved for an apartment to pay the security deposit within a timely manner after being approved. If you are required to pay the security deposit before your move-in date, it allows you to place a hold on the apartment and prevent others from submitting applications for the particular unit. Your lease agreement will require you to leave the apartment in the same condition as you entered the unit in addition to complying with your obligations under the lease agreement.

Security Deposit Laws

Depending on the laws of your state, the landlord may be required to place the security deposit in a separate account until you vacate the apartment and pay interest on the security deposit while it remains in the account. Pursuant to the laws in some states, an apartment manager may require a portion of the security deposit to be nonrefundable. For example, the manager may require $300 of an $800 security deposit to be nonrefundable. If there is a nonrefundable portion of a security deposit, it is generally used to cover costs associated with tenant holdover and apartment cleaning. With regards to the refundable portion of the deposit, the landlord must return the deposit back to you within a timely manner after you vacate the apartment. There are laws in many states that establish a time frame for landlords to refund security deposits after a tenant moves out of a unit. The refund should also include an itemized list of deductions, such as for damage done to the apartment during your tenancy, if the landlord only returns a portion of the refundable deposit.

Pet Deposit

If the apartment manager requires a pet deposit, it covers the normal wear and tear of damages caused by animals, such as carpet stains. The pet deposit may be nonrefundable, depending on the guidelines set by the landlord. You may be required to make a one-time payment at the beginning of your lease, or it may be included within your monthly rent payments.

About the Author

Marie Huntington has been a legal and business writer since 2002 with articles appearing on various websites. She also provides travel-related content online and holds a Juris Doctor from Thomas Cooley Law School.

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