Security deposit for a rented apartment

When you move into a rented apartment, the landlord will usually ask you to give a security deposit, which equals one to three months’ rent. The landlord may refuse to pay back the security deposit if you have damaged the apartment, if you have not cleaned it properly when you move out, or some rent is unpaid. The landlord may not refuse to pay back the deposit because of normal wear and tear caused by living in the apartment. 

The purpose of the deposit is to protect the landlord against the risks of renting the apartment.

The security deposit is usually paid by bank transfer to the landlord’s account or to a separate security account. The security deposit can also be a personal guarantee, or a service provided by a third party for which you pay a monthly fee.

Usually, a security deposit is required before the landlord hands over the keys, and it will only be returned when your lease ends.

Returning the security deposit

The security deposit is not the property of the landlord. It is the responsibility of the landlord to keep the security deposit safe and the landlord cannot use it for his own expenses.

Unless you have agreed otherwise, the landlord must return the security deposit at once when the lease ends if there is no reason to refuse refunding. The landlord may not refuse to return the deposit just to secure his own position, for no real reason. If the landlord does not return the deposit straight away, default interest shall be payable on the amount not refunded, starting from the day following the date on which the lease ends.

The last installments of the rent cannot be left unpaid to reimburse the amount of the security deposit. The rent must be paid until the end of the lease.

Using the security deposit

The lease must specify what the security deposit can be used for. The security deposit is usually agreed as a so-called contract security deposit, which can cover, in addition to unpaid rent, damage to the apartment and, for example, insufficient final cleaning. The landlord must always show the reasons for withholding the security deposit.

Over time, living in the apartment will cause normal wear and tear. The tenant is not liable for this. The landlord cannot expect that the apartment is in exactly the same condition at the beginning and end of the lease. The landlord cannot make the tenants pay for the normal renovations related to the maintenance of the apartment.

If you do the final cleaning carelessly or do not follow the landlord’s instructions, the landlord may keep back part of the deposit to cover the cleaning costs.

The landlord must prove any claim of unusual wear and tear, or defects in cleaning. If there is no proof except the landlord’s observations, this is usually not sufficient evidence in case of a dispute.

Read more about the tenant’s obligations and liability