The Ins & Outs

Landlords and tenants are given rights and responsibilities in the security deposit law. Provided is a list for both parties.


  • May require a security deposit that may not be greater than 1 1/2 month's rent.
  • Must notify the tenant in writing and within 14 days after the tenant's occupancy, of his/her address, where the security deposit is being held, and of the tenant's duty to supply a forwarding address, in writing, within four days after the vacancy. This is often included in the body of the lease.
  • Can use the security deposit for the duration of the lease if he posts a surety bond with the Secretary of State.
  • Must give two blank tenant inventory checklist forms at the beginning of occupancy and must fill one out at the end of the occupancy.
  • Must return the unused portion of the security deposit within 30 days after the tenant moves out and inform the tenant that he/she must respond to the landlord's list of damages within seven days after receiving it.
  • Must take the tenant to court within 45 days of the end of occupancy to collect any disputed portion of the security deposit.
  • Is entitled to part or all of the amount of the deposit if the tenant has failed to pay rent or utility bills, or has failed to fully vacate the premises.


  • Must complete an inventory checklist at the start of occupancy (within seven days of moving in).
  • Must give the landlord a forwarding address within 4 days after moving out. If the tenant does not do this, the right to an itemized list of damages from the landlord is forfeited. However, this is only effective if the landlord has informed the tenant of this requirement in writing.
  • Has a right to a refund of the security deposit if the landlord does not send a list of damages within 30 days and does not take the case to court within 45 days of the end of the occupancy.
  • This completes the list of important factors for security deposits. But not all deposits required by a landlord are refundable. Some are not required by law. For example, a cleaning deposit may be required. It is a sum of money paid by the tenant and used by the landlord for the cleaning of the premises after the tenant moves out. If such a deposit is required, the amount and terms and conditions for its use should be included in the lease. Nonrefundable deposits must be in writing. Other non-refundable deposits include "key," "carpet," and "drape," deposits.
  • Upon receiving possession of the rented premises, the landlord must also furnish the tenant with two blank copies of a commencement inventory checklist including all the items in the rental unit owned by the landlord, as mentioned above. Within seven days the tenant should review the checklist by noting the condition of the landlord's property and return one copy to the landlord. The tenant has a right to request and receive a copy of the termination checklist (also mentioned above), showing the claims chargeable to the last prior tenants. At the end of the occupancy, the landlord should complete a termination inventory checklist of damages that were caused by the tenant. This procedure will protect both the landlord and the tenant.

How To Get Your Security Deposit Back

Remember, within four days of moving out of the rental unit the tenant must advise the landlord in writing of a forwarding address. Within 30 days after the tenant has moved, the landlord must mail to the tenant's new address an itemized list of damages claimed against the tenant's security deposit. At the same time, the landlord must list the estimated cost of repair for each damaged item, the amounts, and basis on which the tenant is assessed, and enclose a check or money order for the difference between damages claimed and the amount of the security deposit held by the landlord. It is important that both landlord and tenant perform their duties within the allotted time. Public Act Number 348 of 1972 is a guide to when and how each party should perform. Failure to comply may result in the loss of a claim to the security deposit. If the landlord and tenant do not agree on damage charges within 45 days after the termination of the occupancy, the landlord must sue the tenant and secure a court judgment covering damage charges in order to rightfully retain any portion of the security deposit. (See Legal Questions.)