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How does a NYC tenant get his security deposit returned?

Typically, tenants in Queens will have to pay a security deposit to a landlord when renting an apartment. In theory, a security deposit, which is often equivalent to one month's rent, is held by the landlord for the term of the lease and will be used at the conclusion of the tenancy to pay for any damages to the premises or outstanding rent payments. If there are no damages or outstanding rent payments, a landlord is supposed to return a tenant's security deposit. However, sometimes tenants have trouble obtaining their security deposits from their landlords.

A tenant's lease should specify a landlord's obligations with respect to a security deposit. There is no legally required time frame in which a landlord must return a tenant's security deposit, but often a lease will specify a time frame of 30 days. A lease should also enumerate what a landlord may deduct from a tenant's security deposit, such as money for repairs or other damage.

Often, landlord-tenant disputes can arise over what, precisely, constitutes damage to the premises. This can result in a landlord retaining some or all of a tenant's security deposit. Many leases define damage as that which is more than "normal wear and tear." Landlords are generally under an obligation to prepare the premises for re-renting, which will include repainting and cleaning, without charging such expenses to a tenant, as long as the tenant left the premises in reasonably good shape upon the conclusion of a lease. It is wise for a tenant to take pictures of the premises upon first leasing and then again upon leaving to document the condition of the property.

A tenant who is having difficulty with his or her landlord regarding a security deposit may want to consult with an attorney. A security deposit may be withheld improperly by a landlord, and tenants have rights to have these funds returned.

Source:, "How to Get Your Security Deposit Back in New York City," Jeanmarie Evelly, accessed Sep. 16, 2016

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