If you’re moving out of a rental, you’re probably all too aware of what you’ll need to do in order to get your deposit back. You may be facing the prospect of spending hours cleaning up, knowing even that’s no guarantee you’ll get your deposit back. If you don’t mind getting that scary notice of forfeiture of deposit in the mail after move-out, you can forfeit your rental deposit in a variety of ways, including breaking your lease, not cleaning the apartment or leaving damages unrepaired.
Forfeit Deposit Meaning
When you rent an apartment or house, you generally provide a security deposit with the understanding that you’ll get it back when you move out. However, there are usually requirements you must meet in order to get that deposit back. Those include:
Honoring all terms of your lease, including staying for the duration
Leaving the apartment in reasonably good condition, including cleaning it and repairing any damage
Paying your rent each month
Even if you do everything you’re supposed to do, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your full deposit back. In fact, in many cases, the landlord finds some reason to keep at least part of it. If you break your lease or leave extensive damage, though, you’ll likely get a forfeit deposit letter, notifying you that the landlord is keeping the entirety of your deposit, along with the reason.
Consequences of Forfeited Deposit
If your plan is to exit your unit and wait for the notice of forfeiture of deposit letter to arrive, you should consider that idea carefully. Your liability could extend beyond the security deposit, especially if you’ve left extensive damage or you stopped paying rent for a while before you moved out. Your landlord can send you an itemized list of what you owed, along with the remaining balance after the deposit was applied, and even take you to small claims court if you don’t pay it.
Things get even worse if you exit your rental before the lease is up. What you owe for this depends on local laws and the terms spelled out in your lease, but generally, your landlord can keep the deposit and charge you for the remainder of the rent. However, as you’re researching the forfeit deposit meaning, it’s also important to note that you do have rights in such a situation. Your landlord should take reasonable measures to re-rent the place, and you may be able to negotiate the amount due even if he can’t.
Rental Deposit Laws
Local laws govern what landlords can do regarding rental deposits, but notifications like a forfeit deposit letter or written notice of a walk-through are often recommended by experts. This paper trail can come in handy if you contest the landlord’s decision to keep your deposit. Generally speaking, a landlord can’t keep part or all of the deposit to pay for normal wear and tear or to upgrade the apartment for the next tenant.
If you receive a notice of forfeiture of deposit, it’s important to ask for an itemized list of what was deducted. You can take your landlord to small claims court if you believe your deposit was held unfairly.
Protecting Your Security Deposit
Before you get to the point of a forfeit deposit letter, it can help to know what you can do to ensure you get your deposit back. Here are some tips that can help:
Understand forfeit deposit meaning and what your landlord believes is just cause for holding part or all of a security deposit
Follow the terms of your lease at move-out time, including giving plenty of notice
Clean the unit as thoroughly as possible
Take photos or videos of the unit on the day you move in
Take photos or videos of the unit before you leave
Ask to be present during the final walk-through
Ask for a copy of all final inspection notes
Stephanie Faris has written about finance for entrepreneurs and marketing firms since 2013. She spent nearly a year as a ghostwriter for a credit card processing service and has ghostwritten about finance for numerous marketing firms and entrepreneurs. Her work has appeared on The Motley Fool, MoneyGeek, Ecommerce Insiders, GoBankingRates, and ThriveBy30.