When you consider moving to an apartment, you have to factor in all the costs. One of them is the security deposit. You probably know you need to budget for it, but how much is a security deposit on an apartment?

And why isn’t the amount the same at every community?

There are a few variables that determine that number.

What is the average security deposit for an apartment?

On average, the security deposit is equal to one month’s rent. So, you want to keep this number in mind when calculating how much money you’ll need to give your landlord at move-in. Many landlords require the security deposit and first month’s rent (and sometimes last month’s rent too) before they’ll give you keys.

Landlords set security deposits to protect them from damage and non-payment. Security deposits are set based on four important factors: State law, cost of monthly rent, included amenities (elevator, W/D in unit, private parking, furnished vs. unfurnished, doorman on site, new renovations) and market competition. When anticipating how much a security deposit might be, consider those factors when making an estimate. State law may limit how much a landlord can set a security deposit for, so it is always a good idea to check into your local legislation if you feel the security deposit set was too high.

Coming up with this amount of money may seem overwhelming. But, remember that if you’re in an apartment now, and you haven’t damaged it, you might a security deposit coming back to you. You should receive it within 30 days after you move out. (If you’ve earned its return, but you don’t receive it within 30 days, contact the office).

Where can I find the security deposit amount for a unit?

The amount owed for security deposit should be on the application, and must be on the lease. Before deciding on an apartment, make sure you have the dollar amount of the security deposit in writing.

How much can a landlord charge for a security deposit?

That’s up to the landlord. The average is one month’s rent, but some will charge up to three month’s rent. Most states have a limit to what can be charged, but there are some states that have no maximum.

If everyone else in the area is charging one month’s rent for security deposit, the landlord may want to do the same, to lease the unit. If you’ve seen evidence of that, take it with you in order to negotiate.

Why would a landlord charge more than one month rent for the security deposit?

Some property management companies have a policy that the deposit is 1.5 or two times the monthly rent. However, another reason your deposit may be quoted as higher is due to your less-than-perfect credit history. The landlord may want to rent to you but must offset the risk by charging you a higher security deposit.

Can my security deposit be used as rent?

Your security deposit is not meant to be used to pay your last month’s rent. When the time comes for you to move, you cannot ask your landlord to use your deposit to cover full or prorated rent. However, if you paid first and last month’s rent in lieu of – or in addition to – a security deposit, then you have, in fact, already paid for your last month, and shouldn’t be required to pay for your final month at the time, since you already did so up front.

Pet deposits

If your landlord allows your pet to move in, there will be an additional pet deposit due before the landlord gives you the keys. If your dog or cat is a service or therapy animal, the pet deposit should be waived with a doctor’s note. Bear in mind, you are still financially responsible for any damage your service or therapy animal does to the apartment.

Pet deposits are either refundable or non-refundable. If your landlord doesn’t charge a pet deposit, it may be because they charge monthly pet rent. This can be anywhere from $10 – $30 depending on the type of property and location. Some landlords will charge pet rent in addition to a security deposit, so make sure you ask about the pet charges up front.

When is the security deposit less than one month’s rent?

Some low-income tax credit properties have lower security deposits for those with good credit.  In a market-rate complex, a lower security deposit might be offered to incentivize more people to move in.

Paying the security deposit and the first (and sometimes last) month’s rent can be tough, but it’s part of moving. Just remember, you do get your deposit back if you leave your unit in good condition when you move out. It’s part of the business. Once you get that part out of way you can focus on making your new apartment feel like home.

How do I get my security deposit back?

Getting a security deposit back can be difficult when dealing with some leasing companies. Here’s the best way to ensure you will get most – or all – of your security deposit back:

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