Your landlord must return your deposit and/or provide written notice of any charges within 30 days of your moving out. If he or she does not, you may seek recovery of your deposit and a penalty equal to the amount of the deposit through the courts (district magistrate or housing court).
To recover your security deposit, you should:
- Return your keys by the date your lease ends.
- Provide your forwarding address in writing.
- Remove all personal belongings.
- Clean the apartment.
- Dispose of all trash properly.
- Follow any special cleaning instructions in the lease.
- Inspect the apartment with the landlord if possible.
If you owe the landlord any rent (a deposit may not be used as the last month’s rent), fees, utility assessments, or repair charges, the landlord may deduct those charges from your deposit and bill you if there is an outstanding balance. The landlord must identify the detailed charges in writing within 30 days. If you disagree with the charges, discuss them with the landlord. Document in writing your disagreement and any compromise, adjustment, or agreement reached with the landlord. If no agreement is reached, your last alternative for a landlord who does not honor his or her obligations under the law is legal action. Your refusal to pay charges for repairs or unpaid bills that exceed your security deposit will usually result in legal action by the landlord.
Security deposits are a normal element of apartment rental. The Pennsylvania Landlord-Tenant Act specifies how deposits are to be received, maintained, applied, and returned or kept by the landlord. Knowing your rights and meeting your obligations under the lease agreement are your best guarantees of recovering your deposit. Legal action is not the first alternative, but it may be necessary if your landlord does not honor his or her obligations under the law.