Renters typically are required to pay a security deposit as part of the lease agreement. Usually, this amount is equal to one month's rent but security deposit limits are established by state law. The deposit is returned to the tenant upon termination of the lease, minus any amount needed for repairs or other costs passed onto the landlord. The landlord's use of the security deposit is limited to the tenant's obligations and responsibilities as spelled out by the lease agreement.
Most state security deposit laws also specify a time limit in which landlords must return the deposit to a departing tenant. For example, landlords have one a month limit for returning deposits in Colorado, but just 14 days in Arizona. In Montana, deposits must be returned within 10 days if there are no deductions (30 days if there are deductions). Other provisions of security deposit statutes may include walk-through inspections and escrow account requirements.
Below are the general categories of security deposit limits, and the states that adhere to each. Use this as a general resource, but always check your state and local laws for any modifications, as there are often exceptions to these general rules (such as if you have pets; are renting for a long duration; the apartment is furnished; or you plan to use certain types of furniture, such as waterbeds).
One Month's Rent
Alabama, Delaware (leases of 12 months or more), District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico (leases of 12 months or less), New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania (unless it's your first year of renting, then the limit is two months), Rhode Island, South Dakota.
One and a Half Month's Rent
Arizona, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina (for month-to-month tenancies).
Two Month's Rent
Alaska (where the rent is under $2000), Arkansas, California (unfurnished), Connecticut (under the age of 62), Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, North Carolina (for tenancies longer than two months), Virginia.
Three Month's Rent
Nevada, California (furnished)
Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
Security Deposit Limits: Additional Resources
If you have additional questions after reading this article and want to continue your research, the good news is that you can. Simply click on the links below to learn more about security deposit-related matters.
Have Questions About Security Deposit Limits? Ask an Attorney
As you can see, there are limits to the amount that a landlord can require as a security deposit. If you're unsure about the security deposit limits in your state, or have other concerns regarding the lease agreement, it may be a good idea to speak with a local landlord-tenant attorney who will be able to answer your questions and make sure all of the lease terms are in compliance with state laws.