What is a security deposit and how is it used?

A security deposit is an amount of money, not to exceed two months’ rent, required by the landlord at the beginning of a lease term. It serves as security for the landlord to cover any damages to the leased property above and beyond normal wear and tear caused by the tenant or their guests or to cover unpaid rent and late charges. 

The landlord and tenant should walk through the property together at the beginning and at the end of the lease term. An inspection report should be signed by both the landlord and the tenant at the beginning of the lease to document the condition of the property. Both parties should keep a copy of the report. This report will protect the tenant from an unscrupulous landlord who may try to keep the security deposit to pay for a condition that existed prior to leasing the property. The tenant and a witness should draft a list if the landlord won’t do a walkthrough. 

The security deposit is not supposed to be used for the last month’s rent, but it must be returned to the tenant after the landlord conducts a favorable walk-through inspection after the lease expires. Landlords under the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act have forty-five days after tenant moves out before they have to return or account for the use of the security deposit.

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