When landlords decide to rent an apartment or other property to a potential tenant, there are number of different factors that will go into that decision, but the most important one is that they need to have assurances that the tenant will be able to pay their rent each month on time. However, landlords also have to be concerned about damages that may occur during the tenancy. Sometimes accidents happen and in others a tenant may purposely break something within the rental property.
Sometimes the landlord will not know that the damage occurred until after the tenant moves out though. So, to help ensure that the landlord will not be stuck having to pay for the damages themselves, landlords generally require tenants to pay a security deposit at the beginning of the tenancy and generally these are a condition of the lease agreement between the landlord and tenant. However, these are just deposits though intended to protect the landlord in case there is significant damage.
During the tenancy the landlord must keep the security deposit in a separate account which gains interest at a rate less than 1% of the total deposit each year. At the end of the tenancy the landlord needs to inspect the property and can keep a portion or all of the deposit to repair damages that are beyond normal wear and tear. However, they must notify the tenant and provide them with a list of the damages and estimated costs within 14 days of the end of the lease. At that time, they also must return any unused portion of the deposit to the tenant.
Security deposits are very common conditions of a lease agreement in New York. They are meant to protect the landlord, but it is important that the landlord follows the rules associated with security deposits. If they do not, the tenant may have a basis to bring the landlord to court to retrieve their security deposit. Experienced attorneys understand these laws and may be a useful resource.