Moving from one apartment to another is stressful enough, but it can be even worse when you're waiting to find out if you'll get your security deposit back from your former landlord. Fortunately, there are laws that determine how long your landlord has to send you either your security deposit back or an itemized list detailing what damages your landlord is charging you for. If your security deposit does not cover these charges, your landlord may also send you a bill.
The Deadline Varies
Each state has its own laws regarding how long a landlord has to send you a bill after you vacate the property. In California, for example, a landlord has 21 days from the date you moved out. In Ohio and a number of other states, the deadline is 30 days. In Arkansas, the deadline is 60 days. New York doesn't have a specified time frame: According to NOLO, the landlord must provide the bill in "reasonable time." Check the laws in your state so you know what to expect.
The deadline rule usually does not apply if you break the lease by moving out before your tenancy is officially up. In this case, your landlord may charge you rent until your lease is up or a new tenant moves in, which would allow him to send you bills as they occur -- even after the state-specified number of days is up.
If Your Landlord Misses the Deadline
If you did not break your lease and your landlord misses the deadline to either return your security deposit or provide you with an itemized bill, send him a certified letter informing him that he has missed the deadline. You should include a copy of your lease in the letter to prove this. Make sure to keep a copy of the letter, taking special care to document the postage date. This can help you if you decide to contest the charges in court, proving that the landlord did not follow state deadline laws and therefore forfeited his right to deduct anything from your security deposit or demand additional money.
To help prevent the possibility of receiving a bill after you move out, carefully document the condition of your rental home when you move in. Take plenty of time-stamped pictures and email them to both yourself and your landlord immediately. This will help protect you by providing evidence of any damage that already existed when you moved in. Do the same before moving out, so that your landlord cannot charge you for damages that you didn't cause during your tenancy.
Kate Savage is a writer and editor with more than eight years experience writing and editing professionally. She holds a master's degree in writing and editing as well as a bachelor's degree in English literature. Her writing has been featured on a number of websites, including eHow, GlobalPost, and SFGate.com. She lives in Portland, Ore.