The Mechanics of Getting the Deposit Back

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Depending on the state, landlords generally have from 14 to 30 days after you leave—whether voluntarily or by eviction—to return all or part of your deposit. (State laws are in Appendix B.) The landlord must mail either of the following to your last known address (or forwarding address, if known):


  • Your entire deposit, with interest if required (the chart in Appendix B lists state laws requiring interest).

  • A written, itemized statement as to how the deposit has been applied toward back rent and costs of cleaning and damage repair, together with whatever is left of the deposit, including any interest that is required. In most states, landlords must send the itemization along with any deposit balance. A few states add an additional step that gives tenants time to respond to proposed deductions before they are actually made. 


If your landlord is slow in returning your deposit, a reminder letter is in order. (In some states, deliberate or “bad faith” retention of the deposit subjects the landlord to sizable penalties.) Ask for the amount to be refunded, cite your state or local law regarding deposits, send the letter certified, and keep a copy. Known as a “demand letter,” you’ll need to show it to the judge if you end up in court attempting to collect your deposit. 


Sample Letter Demanding Return of Security Deposit


July 15, 20xx


Sandy Beach
5 Lake View Drive
Washburn, Illinois 12345


Dear Ms. Beach:


As you know, until May 30, 20xx, I rented Apartment #4 at 1492 Columbus Avenue. I gave 30 days’ notice on May 1, and moved out owing no rent. The apartment was not damaged in any way.


As of today, I have received neither my $750 security deposit nor any accounting from you for that money. Under Illinois law (Ill. Rev. Stat. Ch. 765 para. 710, 715), I was entitled to receive my deposit, including an itemization of any deductions, 30 days after my tenancy ended—that is, by June 30, 20xx. You are now over two weeks late.


Please return the deposit to me immediately. If I do not receive my money by July 25, I will regard your retention of my deposit as showing bad faith and will sue you in small claims court for $1,500, which is double the amount of my deposit as allowed under Illinois law.


I look forward to receiving my deposit forthwith at the above address.


Yours truly,


Andrew Noble
76 Noview Drive
Evans, Illinois 12345


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