Can A Landlord Withhold My Security Deposit?

Security deposits are a hot button issue for some landlords and tenants.  Colorado law allows for landlords to collect a security deposit from all tenants who sign any kind of lease, whether agricultural, commercial, residential, or recreational.  This deposit can be used for specific expenses such as fixing damage to the property after the tenant moves out or to cover unpaid bills that a tenant who abandons the property may have left unpaid.  Security deposits are essentially just that: a deposit the landlord takes as a security against any unpaid bills or unanticipated expenses due to the tenant.  However, a landlord can only withhold this deposit subject to strict guidelines provided by Colorado statute.

Your landlord has a set timeline to either return your deposit or notify you in writing why certain portions or all of your security deposit was kept by the landlord.  Unless provided differently in your lease agreement, your landlord has one month from the date of lease termination to send you written notice of the reasons for keeping your security deposit.  This time limit is capped at 60 days by statute, so even if your lease says 75 days, the landlord must send the notice within 60.  This notice must be written, and accurately account for each reason the security deposit is being retained.  Was there an unpaid bill, such as utility bills or other services for the tenant? Carpet that was damaged beyond repair and needing replaced? The notice must state those items the deposit is being retained for with exact specificity.

Additionally, the damages to your apartment or commercial building space must be beyond normal wear and tear if the landlord elects to keep your security deposit.  Normal wear and tear can be a sticky issue, but is defined in Colorado under the law as “that deterioration which occurs, based upon the use for which the rental unit is intended, without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse of the premises or equipment or chattels by the tenant or members of his household, or their invitees or guests.”  The legal definition and available case law interpreting what qualifies as normal wear and tear do little to clarify this definition unfortunately.  For things like carpet and paint, the tenant is usually only responsible for covering damages outside the useful life of the item.  So if the carpet was meant to least 3 years, but had to be replaced after 1, the tenant is responsible for the prorated amount of 2 years that the landlord lost out on.

If your landlord fails to return your security deposit or attempts to keep portions of your security deposit, it is in your best interest to consult with an attorney in your area.  Denver Lease Lawyer Nathaniel Gilbert helps tenants and landlords with security deposit issues in Denver, the Front Range, and the state of Colorado, and can help evaluate your case and see if there are any issues that may need to be resolved by a lawyer.  There are very strict timelines for the process of security deposit disputes, so having an attorney like Nathaniel familiar with the statutes and rules governing the process will put you ahead of the game.