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What should New Yorkers know about security deposits?

Typically, when signing a new lease, a New York City tenant will be required to pay a security deposit. A security deposit is a sum of money paid to a landlord which is designed to act as security to ensure that the tenant will comply with his or her responsibilities under the lease, including payment of rent owed.

When a tenant pays a security deposit, it is wise to request a receipt from the landlord, if not already provided. The receipt should specify how much a tenant paid for a security deposit, when it was paid, the name of the person who received the payment, the intended use of the security deposit, as well as the signature of either the landlord or the landlord's agent.

It is always wise for a tenant to confer with a landlord and agree on the condition of the premises when a tenant takes possession. A tenant may be smart to obtain a signed statement of the property's condition, including a list of any damages that exist when the tenant takes control of the premises.

It is not intended that a landlord will keep a security deposit beyond the termination of a tenancy. After a tenancy ends, a landlord has a fixed time within which he or she must return a tenant's security deposit. If a tenant has caused damage to the premises, however, a landlord can deduct from the security deposit an amount that is reasonably necessary to pay for the damage, included pet damage. If there is damage, landlords generally have to provide tenants with notice of the damages and the repairs that will be necessary to fix the damages, as well as written evidence of either the actual or estimated costs of repairs. It is important to note that a landlord cannot use the security deposit to pay for reasonable wear and tear that occurs with normal use of the premises.

Landlords or tenants who have questions regarding security deposits may find that an attorney can provide helpful counsel.

Source: FindLaw, "Security Deposit Basics," accessed June 3, 2016

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