Most commercial real estate renters in the U.S. pay a security deposit when they sign a new lease. This is a fixed amount of money, often an extra month’s rent, that’s paid to the property manager or landlord to guarantee the tenant will pay rent and follow the lease. The deposit is supposed to be returned at the end of the rental period, but landlords often find ways to keep some or all of the deposit.
How do you make sure you get your security deposit back? What are your rights as the tenant, and what are your landlord’s rights? This guide will walk you through everything you need to know about security deposit regulations and procedures in the state of Virginia.
How Security Deposits Work in Virginia
Tenants typically pay a security deposit before moving into a new office, and these deposits are kept until they move out. Landlords can use the deposit to pay for things like repairs to appliances or damage to the floors, walls, or infrastructure of a property. They can only do this if the damage was caused by tenant behavior, not normal wear and tear. The tenant isn’t likely to be charged for damages if the property is left in good condition.
Virginia law states that a landlord may charge no more than the equivalent of two month’s rent as a security deposit. They may also require tenants to have damages insurance, again equivalent to two month’s rent. The amount of security deposit may also be influenced by the tenant’s credit history and criminal background. The landlord may view these factors as a higher risk and reason to charge more money.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Getting Your Deposit Back
You will want to be sure you get your full security deposit back when it’s time to move out of your office, especially if there are no significant damages. Here are six steps you can take:
1. Notify Your Landlord You Intend to Move Out
Your landlord may require 30 or even 60 days’ notice before you move out. Be sure your landlord is aware of your plans to move out as you approach the end of the lease.
2. Make Sure You’ve Paid Your Final Month’s Rent and All Outstanding Fees
A Virginia landlord can use your security deposit to cover late fees, outstanding rent, or other charges outlined in the lease. Make sure you’ve paid everything you owe before moving out to ensure a prompt return of your full deposit.
3. Be Present During the Inspection
An inspection should take place within 72 hours after you move out. Let your landlord know you’d like to attend the inspection and ask them to notify you of the date and time. You should also take pictures of the commercial property’s condition when you move out to avoid discrepancies.
It’s not required for a tenant to be present at the inspection, but it’s a good idea to be present if you’re concerned about being charged for any damages.
4. Request a Written Copy of the Inspection Report
It is a good idea to have written documentation of any damages or other charges from the landlord. Proof of a clean inspection will show that your deposit should be returned if you don’t get it back in a timely manner.
A Virginia landlord must provide written documentation of any damages or deductions to the security deposit within 45 days of the tenant moving out. The landlord has another 15 days to notify the tenant of charges if they had to hire someone else to make repairs.
5. Provide Your Landlord with a Forwarding Address
Security deposits will often be returned in the form of a check, so you’ll want to make sure your landlord has your forwarding address when you move out.
6. Wait 45 Days to Receive Payment
Virginia law states that a landlord should return a tenant’s security deposit within 45 days from the move-out date.
Tips to Avoid Deposit Delays
In addition to following the step-by-step guide, here are some additional measures that will ensure a timely return of your deposit.
Thoroughly Clean the Office Space
Some landlords will provide a checklist or require you to conduct certain cleaning procedures such as have the carpets cleaned or walls patched.
Return All Copies of Your Keys
Some landlords may charge for failure to return keys or for having to make additional copies of keys.
Take Photos of Your Office Space
This should be done before you move out to document the condition.
Follow Up with Your Landlord
Give your landlord a phone call or email to check the status of your deposit.
What to Do If Your Deposit Isn’t Returned
You still have recourse to secure your deposit if it’s not returned within 45 days. Try contacting your landlord in writing. Your letter should clearly state the amount owed and include any supporting documentation. Make sure to list your contact information and your forwarding address.
You can file a lawsuit in small claims court if you don’t receive a response from your landlord or can’t reach a resolution. This suit should be filed in the General District Court where the property is located. Be prepared to submit copies of all documentation, such as the lease agreement, inspection reports, and photos. You will also have to pay a fee to file the claim.
Get Expert Help Reclaiming Your Security Deposit
It can be tricky to navigate your rights as a tenant and the legal obligations of the landlord when it comes to getting a security deposit returned. If you have any questions related to security deposits or tenant leases, please contact the Genau Group today to speak with an expert.