When it comes time for your tenants to move out, landlords and property managers must decide if they can return the entire security deposit or not.

1 in 4 tenants say they did not receive the amount of return they were expecting. So, what is the deal?

Full Security Deposit Refund

Believe it or not, most property management companies want to return the full deposit to the tenant. Why? Because it would mean that the property was left in the same condition it started in. That’s good for the property management company as well as the property owner.

But the fact is some tenants do cause damage or leave the property in a state that requires some work to be done for the property to be “move in” ready.

Wear & Tear vs Damage

States have established laws to help define what is wear and tear vs damage. In general, property management companies can deduct damages from the tenant’s security deposit. Here are some examples:

Wear and Tear

  1. Minor nicks or nail holes in walls
  2. Wood floors losing their finish from normal wear
  3. Sun faded floors or drapes
  4. Water stains in showers/tubs
  5. Toilets not flushing as new


  1. Broken Tiles in bathrooms or flooring
  2. Cigarette burns in carpet, draperies or furniture
  3. Large holes in walls or doors
  4. Urine stains from pets
  5. General dirty conditions such as greasy kitchen cabinets, counters
  6. Toilets with items clogging the drain (diapers etc.)
  7. Broken appliances

Property management software can play a part by conducting regular property inspections. Property inspection reports can be created and referred to see conditions at different times in history. Conducting pre-move-out inspections on the properties is highly recommended.


Leases should define wear and tear vs damage so that the tenant understands the differences. Landlords can also deduct for items that are not ‘damage’ per se but for things that were done without permission. For example, if the tenant paints a room, the landlord can deduct the cost to repaint from the deposit amount.  This too should be spelled out in the lease.

Returning Security Deposits

In order to try and return as much of the deposit as possible, the property manager should conduct a pre-move out inspection with the tenant. This will identify any items that will affect the deposit and give the tenant time to fix those items before the actual move out date. Together, the manager and tenant can examine each room and note anything that is considered damage, neglect or tenant actions that would impact the security deposit.

About PropertyZar

PropertyZar is a real estate technology company specifically in the web-based property management software for owners and professional property managers. Read more Top Property Management Blogs. Learn more