A security deposit offers a landlord a safety net, ensuring compensation for losses arising from their tenant’s actions. Such actions may include things like moving out without clearing the utility bills or causing damage that exceeds normal wear and tear.
You cannot handle your tenant’s security deposit anyhow you like. There are rules that you must abide by as a landlord. The following are answers to commonly asked questions regarding the Virginia security deposit law.
What is the Maximum Amount a can Landlord Charge a Tenant in Virginia as a Security Deposit?
Virginia caps how much a landlord can charge as a security deposit. The maximum you can charge your tenant shouldn’t exceed the equivalent of 2 months’ rent. Therefore, if you charge a monthly rent of $1,000, then the most you can charge as a security deposit is $2,000.
Are Landlords Allowed to Charge Additional Security Deposits?
Yes! You may be able to charge an additional security deposit on top of the rent deposit as long as it isn’t unreasonable. A pet deposit is a good example. Typically, the deposit ranges from anywhere between $200 and $500.
However, please note that charging a pet deposit on a disabled tenant is unlawful. Disability is a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. As such, requiring a disabled tenant to pay a pet deposit for their service animal would be considered discrimination.
What Deductions Can you Make on Tenants’ Security Deposits in Virginia?
As a Virginia landlord, you have a right to make deductions on a tenant’s security deposit. However, not all reasons may qualify. The Virginia landlord-tenant act allows landlords to make deductions for only the following reasons:
- Unpaid utility bills
- Unpaid rent and reasonable late fees if it’s been detailed in the lease agreement
- Charges or damages that the lease has spelled out
- Property damage exceeding normal wear and tear
It goes without saying that you can only make such deductions once the tenant has moved out of their rental unit.
What Does Damage Exceeding Normal Wear and Tear Mean?
Of course, as a landlord, you’re responsible for maintaining your rental property. That said, as the property ages, there is a certain amount of deterioration that you should expect to occur. This is what is referred to as normal wear and tear. Examples of damage resulting from normal wear and tear include the following:
- Loose door handles
- Loose grout on a ceramic tile
- Faded carpet due to normal everyday use
- Dirty grout
- Worn away the silver finish on bathroom fixtures
- Faded curtains due to sunlight exposure
- Scuffs on paint
You cannot use the security deposit to cover the cost of fixing these issues. Damage exceeding normal wear and tear, on the other hand, isn’t naturally occurring. It’s the kind of damage that harms a property’s value, usefulness, and normal functioning. A tenant can cause such damage either knowingly or unknowingly.
Examples of damage exceeding normal wear and tear include:
- Missing door handles
- Missing or torn wallpaper
- Large stains or pet damage
- Broken or missing toilet seat
- Smashed bathroom mirror
- Illegal property alterations to the unit, for example, unauthorized paint colors
- Holes in walls
Do Virginia Landlords have to Keep Their Tenant’s Security Deposit Records?
Yes! You, as the landlord, have a responsibility to keep all your tenants’ records. The records should itemize any deductions you have made to tenants’ security deposits for at least the last 2 years. You must also provide those records whenever required by the tenant or their legal representative.
Do Tenants in Virginia have a Right to a Walk-through Inspection?
Yes! The Virginia landlord-tenant law requires that landlords carry out a move-out inspection prior to a tenant leaving. You must make a reasonable effort to notify your tenant of the inspection no more than 5 days before the tenant moves out. The tenant can choose whether or not to attend the move-out inspection.
The goal of a walk-through inspection is to simply check whether or not the tenant has caused excessive damage. If they have, you must itemize the issues and give the tenant the list.
When Must You Return Your Tenant’s Security Deposit?
Virginia landlords must return their tenants’ security deposit within 45 days of them moving out. If you’ve made any deductions, then you must return the remaining portion alongside an itemized written statement. You can send this statement to the tenant either by hand delivery or through certified mail.
What Must a Landlord Do if they Transfer the Property’s Ownership to a New Owner?
If you sell your investment property, it’ll be the new owner’s responsibility to return the deposit back to the tenant.
What Can Happen if a Landlord Wrongfully Withholds a Tenant’s Security Deposit in Virginia?
If you fail to follow the state’s law on security deposits, you could be liable for certain penalties. This can include the tenant being entitled to the entire security deposit amount, plus court and attorney fees.
Can a Tenant Use the Security Deposit as Last Month’s Rent?
Not usually. There is no rental law that entitles a tenant to do so. There is an exception, though. And that is if both parties have a written agreement allowing it.
What if the Tenant Fails to Provide You a Forwarding Address?
If a tenant fails to provide you with a forwarding address, then you’ll need to keep their deposit for one year. Then after that, you’ll need to pay the amount to the Commonwealth. Once you’ve done that, you’ll have no further responsibility regarding the tenant’s security deposit.
As a landlord, it’s important that you understand the state’s security deposit laws. You also need to stay up-to-date on the legal eviction process, what to do if a tenant breaks the lease early, and any other rental policies.
If you would like help manning your rentals and keeping up with your legal responsibilities, consider reaching out to the experts at Keyrenter Property Management Hampton Roads.
We offer full-service property management solutions to property owners in Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Virginia Beach, Suffolk, Hampton, and Newport News. Contact us today to learn more about our management services!
Disclaimer: This blog isn’t a substitute for professional legal advice from a qualified attorney. Laws are subject to change and therefore this post may not be up-to-date at the time of your reading it.