Security Deposit Disputes

December 1, 2020by melissad0

By: Valerie Higgins- Property Supervisor

You expect your full security deposit back. Like most people you’ve moved out of your rental home and felt you did a great job cleaning your rental property.  You also made sure no personal items were left behind and you have just received your returned security deposit.  Wait, What? it is less than the amount you submitted.  What do  you do next:   

Remain calm 

Easy for us to say right? But, be open minded that there was something you or they may have missed. Or something that had not been communicated with your owner/manager prior to moving out. Possibly you forgot to make sure the trash cans were emptied, or didn’t replace burnt out light bulbs in the one room.  These are two common items that are often missed.  Or, maybe they are human and made a mistake. Give the benefit of the doubt first, fight later.

Reach out

Your next step would be to reach out to the owner or manager and discuss the item or items that were deducted from your deposit. Providing photos, or your move in assessment, bills paid etc can all help put the pieces together. And I stress again; stay calm and hold off any anger. That is unproductive and may only make the owner/manager stand their ground for something that you may otherwise be able to negotiate a return of funds.   It could very well be explained, and you can move on. Possibly the balance of your water utility usage was deducted by mistake.   

Put it in writing

If you still disagree after your phone discussion.  It is time to put it in writing!   Prepare a letter to your owner/manager with detailed explanation of the item or items you disagree to his/her charges and why.   Include pictures of the condition from your move-in of the disputed item(s).  Often a company like ours will have another person higher up review the file for errors. Allow some time for this review- it very often works in favor of the resident. Checking in every couple days, but giving them a week or two is reasonable. Most important date and sign your letter.

Back up your dispute

It is crucial that your provide evidence to support your dispute. A move in assessment, dated move in photos, bills paid etc.   For example, let’s say you had the carpets cleaned and then the owner/manager had them cleaned again at your expense. Provide him/her the receipt from the carpet cleaning company you hired- leave a copy on the counter when you move out or email it to them.   It will be difficult for your landlord to deny your demand of return of the deducted charges if you show concrete evidence.  

Confirm and Follow Up

Finally, be sure to request confirmation of receipt of your letter and a timely request for his/her return response.  It is also helpful to send certified mail to avoid your owner/manager not responding due to lost mail, supposed or otherwise.  Email your letter as well and follow up with a phone call to your landlord with verifying he/she has received your disputed security deposit charges letter. If it is a company there are many steps that go into security itemization, so it may take time to process.

Remember, we are all human

All to often we are quick to react, judge or accuse. Let us remind you that owners/managers are human too. They make mistakes in their job just as you do. Giving them grace and time to remedy the situation proves far superior in most cases.

For more information please call 619-286-7600 or visit

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San Diego Metro Office
6398 Del Cerro Blvd., Ste 8.
San Diego, CA 92120
(619) 286-7600

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