Sample Demand Letter for Return of Security Deposit

What to include in a demand letter when your landlord hasn't returned your security deposit.

By , Attorney · UC Berkeley School of Law

Renters who have kept their rental in clean and repaired condition and paid rent in full and on time are entitled to get their security deposit back in full. In most states, the law sets firm deadlines by which landlords must return security deposits. Many state security deposit statutes also require landlords to account for any deductions they make from the deposit.

If your landlord fails to send you a written itemization of your deposit as required by your state security deposit law, or you feel the landlord's deductions were unfair, you could try to negotiate or mediate the dispute. Maybe your landlord will let you do some additional cleaning, rather than charge you for cleaning costs. If you are unsuccessful working something out with your landlord, however, it's time to formally demand the return of your security deposit.

What to Include in a Security Deposit Demand Letter

When you make a written demand for your landlord to return your security deposit, be sure to include:

  • the address of your rental and the dates you rented from
  • how much you paid for a security deposit
  • why you are entitled to a return of a portion or all of the deposit
  • the state laws that require a return of the deposit in a timely manner
  • the penalties for not returning the deposit as required by law
  • the date by which your landlord should've returned the deposit or provided an accounting of deductions (if applicable)
  • a deadline by which you expect to receive the deposit
  • the address where the landlord should send the deposit and accounting, and
  • a clear statement that if you do not receive the deposit by your given deadline that you will file a lawsuit against the landlord.

In some states, you must make a written demand for the return of your security deposit before you can sue your landlord in small claims court. Even if your state doesn't require you to write a demand letter before suing, it's a good idea to send one. Not only will sending the letter increase the chance that the landlord will return your deposit without having to go to court, but it also helps you organize your case and learn the law in the event you do need to go to court.

Send your demand letter by certified mail (return receipt requested), or via another service that will give you a receipt establishing the date of delivery. Sending an actual letter rather than an email allows you to obtain proof that the correspondence was received (and the landlord will probably take a physical letter a lot more seriously than an email). If you want, you could always follow up with an email containing a pdf version of the letter you sent. Keep a copy of your demand letter and the delivery receipt. You'll need them if you end up in court.

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