Security deposits are a legally challenging area of landlord-tenant relations in Pennsylvania. They can sometimes be as high as ten thousand dollars. The money is technically owned by one party but can be used by another party depending on the terms of the contract. Both parties must be familiar with their rights if they hope to successfully navigate a security deposit transfer.
What is a security deposit?
In landlord-tenant law, a security deposit is an amount of money that a landlord can require a tenant to hand over when they secure a rental. This amount varies depending on demand for the unit and its overall rent. A deposit must be held in an escrow account by the landlord. It must eventually be relinquished to the tenant upon move-out except for amounts that are fairly deducted by the landlord. The deposit helps protect the landlord in many ways. It ensures that the tenant is serious about renting the unit and has some incentive to stay and treat the unit well. Deposits may also help cover the substantial losses from tenant-related damages for landlords.
Rules and guidelines
The most important rules related to a security deposit govern the maximum and the system of giving the deposit back to the tenant when they move out. In Pennsylvania, the maximum security deposit is two months’ rent. This law limits the total amount of a tenant’s money that a landlord can simply hold.
The landlord also has to return the security deposit within 30 days of a tenant moving out. They can request deductions from this deposit based on unpaid rent and other assorted damages to the unit. The landlord must be careful to ensure that they are treating their tenant fairly and are only deducting what they absolutely need to make necessary repairs to the unit.