Q. I have lived in the same apartment complex for over two years. When I first rented the apartment I paid a $650 security deposit, which was equal to my monthly rent. I have been a good tenant, have not damaged my apartment nor have I brought in to my residence any pets.
A few days ago, I received a notice that he is raising my security deposit by $100. Without justification for raising my security deposit, it does not seem right that he could do this on his own and without cause. Is it legal?
A. That depends on whether or not your lease or month-to-month agreement gives your landlord the contractual right to increase your security deposit. For this you will need to review the specific terms of the lease itself.
The landlord does not need an independent reason to raise your deposit such as you bringing in a pet or noticing that you have become a smoker or any other reason that might suggest damage is being done to the apartment. The right to increase the deposit is purely a contractual one.
In some states, security deposit increases apply only to leases that are for a fixed term such as one year. In periodic leases, such as a month-to-month lease, increases to your security deposits can usually occur unless your periodic lease expressly prohibits them. If your month-to-month lease is silent on the issue, many states permit the landlord to increase it, assuming of course the landlord provides you with lawful written notice of the increase.
Some Local Ordinances Limit Landlords Right To Increase Security Deposit
In some jurisdictions, if the amount that you have already paid as a security deposit equals twice the monthly rent, then your landlord will be prohibited from raising the security deposit. The rationale being that your landlord already took a hefty security deposit from you when you initially leased the apartment from him.
These types of property ordinances are designed to prohibit overreaching by the landlord and to dissuade landlords from exploiting tenants. Finally, the landlord is almost always prohibited from insisting that you pay the increase in cash.
Notice of Increase In Security Deposit
Most jurisdictions require landlords on periodic leases to provide the tenant with at least thirty days written notice of the increase. If the notice was not in writing or did not provide you with the required notice term, you will be under no legal obligation to pay the increase.