Necessary Evil?

Landlords and tenants probably have contrasting views on a security deposit. A landlord sees it as protection against losses for tenant related damages and something that assigns responsibility for repair costs to the destructive party. On the other hand, the tenant probably sees it as a large burden. In New York there is no statute capping the legal amounts that can be charged for a security deposit, the result? A security deposit that will leave a considerable hole in your wallet until it is returned. New York grows more expensive as time passes yet the demand continues to create competition for units there.  New York landlords aren’t fond of the guessing game. A security deposit guarantees them that they have money reserved to make necessary repairs. As much as we like to think of ourselves of financially responsible a landlord doesn’t want to rely on you coming up with x amount of dollars to repair a distressed item before your lease ends. For this reason, they find it a necessary evil as well as some tenants.

The Standard

A standard deposit is equal to first month’s rent. The standard isn’t the law meaning your landlord can adjust the price based on any factor. The security deposit alone carries a punch but once you add in the other costs for securing a New York apartment and you may be surprised. Along with the security deposit, landlords can charge first and last month’s rent, and a broker’s fee. Depending on your rent amount, you can estimate what you will be asked to fork out upfront. Your first and last month’s rent isn’t refundable seeing that you finish out your lease, but in the event, you leave your apartment in lovely shape, you can have your security deposit returned. When it’s returned any interest earned on the money shall be returned as well but this doesn’t include the administration fee your landlord may charge. Should you not leave it in acceptable condition?


You weren’t happy about it, but you handed over the security deposit to your landlady, upon move-out it’s returned to you but it’s not the amount you gave. Your landlady can deduct reasonable costs from your deposit to pay for damages, it is to be noted that minor changes to the space due to wear and tear aren’t eligible for repayment. Additionally, after deductions have been calculated and subtracted from your deposit, it shall be returned in a timely manner. There are exceptions to every rule, if you break your lease but your landlord finds a tenant basically immediately you can be owed your security deposit back unless there is a clause stating that breaking your lease is grounds for making your deposit non-refundable.

When will I get it back?

At the end of the day, you should have your deposit returned to you in 14 days or less, less any deductions. After the new law passed landlords aren’t happy with the new change, but tenants are elated.  Previously, the landlord had no legal timeframe to abide by, leading to abuse and justification for simply not giving a reasonable timeframe of when it may be returned. You have the right to address the return of your deposit, if it’s been too long reach out to your landlord about the reasonable timeframe. After a significant amount of time has passed, seeking legal help to obtain the deposit is an option which commonly occurs in small-claims court or mediation.

Uninhabitable Circumstances

Circumstances that force a tenant to move from their property, without fulfilling the entirety of their lease, aren’t viewed as grounds for keeping a security deposit. In situations when a property has been very deteriorated or destroyed, the tenant is entitled to their deposit. Even in uninhabitable conditions there is still a proper and structured way to remove yourself. If you feel that is your only option, you must collect the documents, serve your current landlord with an official “constructive eviction” statement, and then you are required to give them enough time to fix the problem, during this time you must continue to pay rent. Don’t allow frustration to put you in an even worse situation, take the correct actions, and consult a lawyer or legal professional if you feel your landlord is violating your rights and withholding your deposit.