A landlord may want you to pay a sum of money called “last month’s rent” before you move in as a form of insurance against your leaving without giving the proper amount of notice. If you’ve paid for the last month in a payment clearly labeled “last month’s rent,” you obviously don’t have to pay for the last month. But if that's not the case, and you want to use the deposit for the last month’s rent, you need to ask the landlord and get his okay in writing. It's a risky move to assume you can skip paying your last month’s rent, figuring that the landlord will just take it out of your deposit.Here's why:
- Forcing the landlord to deplete the deposit to cover rent leaves him with less money to use should he need to make repairs or replace missing items in your unit. Even if you leave the place spotless, your landlord won’t appreciate being manipulated this way. Don’t expect a good reference when your next landlord asks about you as a tenant.
- Even though you’ve announced that you’re leaving, your landlord may still send you a termination notice and follow-up with an eviction lawsuit. He may simply not trust you to leave, and may not want to waste any time getting you out once your rent payments have stopped. Even if the eviction is dismissed, it may show up on your credit record, which will be a major problem for future rentals.
- Laws in a few states impose penalties on tenants who attempt to use the deposit as the last month’s rent without their landlord’s permission.
Many states consider a last month’s rent payment as part of the security deposit when it comes to limits. In other words, if your state limits security deposits to twice the monthly rent, your landlord can collect for the last month and only one more monthly sum as “security.” But the landlord can’t collect twice the monthly rent as a deposit plus the last month’s rent.