March 2001


Make sure your recordkeeping is meticulous if you decide to withhold all or part of a Security Deposit to repair damages left by a departing Tenant. Many Owners/Landlords/Managers itemizations include only sketchy details about claimed damages and the repair/replacement work that is needed or has been done. 

You can deduct the cost of damages from a Security Deposit but not ordinary wear & tear. What is the difference? The general rule is that some deterioration is to be expected, but not physical damage. 

Five Points to Itemize 

#1 Item damaged. List each damaged fixture, piece of furniture, or appliance separately. A separate line for "dishwasher/stove or refrigerator" is much better than one line for "kitchen appliances." 

#2 Location. Note the room in which the damaged item is located.

Walls? Floors? Windows? You should also specify the room when itemizing light bulbs, lighting fixtures, smoke detectors, etc. 

#3 Kind of damage. Saying "damage"/substancial damage" is too vague. (also, "considerable/excessive damage"): Describe how an item was damaged: use descriptive terms: "chipped, scratched, stained, torn, cracked or burned." 

#4 Repairs needed or completed. Briefly describe what you must do or have already done to fix the damage. Use descriptive terms:

"spackle, sand, paint, shampoo, steam, deodorize": Also, if you replace rather than repair, say so.

#5 Repair or replacement costs. Say how much it will cost: If you have already made the repair or replacement, list exactly what you spent and a detailed job description: presenting an Invoice or Receipt is the least contestable between you and your Tenant. 

If you do not use a Move-Out cost schedule and you are sending out the itemizations before you have done the repairs or gotten an Invoice/receipt, you can estimate the cost as long as your estimate is "reasonable", based on the going rate for similar repairs or replacements. A Move-In Sheet in addition to photographs or camcording videos is suggested when your Tenant moves in or takes occupancy to determine the condition of the unit @ the inception of the tenancy. 

*Right Way

Spackle and paint over nail holes in hallway.$ 50.00 

*Wrong Way

Repainting..$ 50.00 

*Right Way

Shampoo living room rug to remove pet urine stains$100.00 

*Wrong Way

Pet Damage.$100.00 


Source: Property Management Journal

Return to prior page

This web page was updated on 02/24/2001.