Understanding Your Michigan Security Deposit
Your security deposit is an amount you escrow with your landlord, to cover any potential damages that may occur to the property during your tenancy. As the name implies, it’s a deposit that you own through your lease term, even though your landlord has possession of it. Legally it must be returned to you within a specific period of time after you vacate the property, less any qualified damages your landlord claims. Though security deposits are treated pretty similarly throughout the U.S., specific regulations and limitations may vary from state to state. Let’s take a look at some common questions regarding your security deposit in Michigan.
What is the maximum Security Deposit a Landlord can charge?
Under Michigan law, the limit your landlord can charge you is one and a half month’s rent. Remember that your security deposit is unrelated to other fees or charges, like a pet or application fee you may be required to pay before moving in.
How important are my MoveIn/MoveOut Checklists?
It’s your responsibility to inspect your home before you move in and after you move out. It’s in your best interest to take the checklist seriously and to fill it out diligently. These checklists are your record—and your landlord’s—for proving the condition of your home should a dispute arise over damages.
When can my Landlord withhold my Deposit?
First of all, it’s your responsibility as a tenant to adhere to the terms of your lease and to return your home in the same or better shape as you received it. So, if you’ve taken great care of the home, you shouldn’t be worried. Common reasons for losing part or all of your security deposit would include, but aren’t limited to, unpaid rent, outstanding utility bills, and damages that are considered beyond normal wear and tear.
What is considered normal Wear and Tear?
Carpeting, appliances, and flooring wear over time through natural and regular use. Just as walls will need periodic painting, these activities are considered normal wear and tear, and you shouldn’t expect to be charged for them. However, if a wall has gouges from moving furniture or the carpeting has burn holes and/or permanent stains that require premature replacement, expect to see those expenses deducted from your security deposit.
Here are some other common examples that would warrant deductions from your security deposit:
1. Painting because you repainted and didn’t return the walls to their original color
2. Painting required due to smoking in violation of the lease
3. Cracked windows, damaged screens or blinds
4. Pest or rodent infestation
5. Excessive grime and dirt or an unreasonable amount of mold and/or mildew
6. Damaged fixtures such as lighting or doorknobs
When do I get my Security Deposit back?
Once you’ve removed all of your personal belongings, deep-cleaned your home, and returned the keys to your landlord by your MoveOut date, you have four days to provide your landlord with your forwarding address. (Note: If you fail to provide your new address, your landlord can use your security deposit for damages without needing to present you an itemized list.) Your landlord then has 30 days to either return your security deposit in full or present you with a list of damages and the remainder of your money, which you can contest in writing within seven days. It’s worth noting, if you don’t bother to respond to your landlord’s correspondence, you’re essentially pleading no contest, and they can use your deposit for damages. However, if the damages exceed the amount of your deposit, then your landlord has 45 days to file a lawsuit.
What if I owe more than my Security Deposit?
You are still on the hook for the amount in damages that exceed your security deposit. If you don’t voluntarily pay the excess listed in the itemized charges, you may find yourself in court. Though neither you nor your landlord looks forward to going to court, it’s an effective, albeit more expensive, way to settle a dispute. The mature thing to do is pay for the damages before the matter escalates to the legal system. Though it may not be worth your landlord’s time or money to sue you for $100 or $150, are you willing to tarnish your rental history, which may make it more difficult to get a lease in the future over $100? On the other hand, if you trashed the place and damages are in the thousands, expect to find yourself in front of a judge. Court costs can get expensive, and if you lose, you may owe your landlord’s costs too, and face wage garnishment to pay off your debt, as well.
If you’re a mindful tenant, then you shouldn’t be overly concerned with your security deposit. Still, problems do arise between tenants and landlords, which is why there are laws in place to protect both parties. Should your tenancy go smoothly, you should expect to get your security deposit back when you move out. However, if you violate any terms of the lease or maltreat your rented home, your landlord can and will use your deposit to mitigate their damages.
Image Courtesy of Karolina Grabowska