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How Can a Tenant Get Their Security Deposit?



Under Ohio Law, a tenant has the right to request the return of their security deposit after they have moved out of the rental property.

When should a tenant ask for the return of their security deposit?

  1. After the tenant has cleaned the unit and moved out; and
  2. After the tenant has returned the keys to the landlord.

How should a tenant request the return of their security deposit?

  1. Write a letter to the landlord which includes the tenant’s name, the tenant’s new mailing address, the address of the rental property, and if known, the amount paid for the security deposit. Online tools can help tenants prepare a letter requesting return of their security deposit. Go to http://ohiolegalhelp.org/self-help-forms/ and look for “Return of Security Deposit.”
  2. The tenant should keep a copy of the letter for their record.
  3. Send the letter to the landlord by certified mail or by other delivery method that allows for proving the letter was delivered.

What must a landlord do in response to a tenant’s request for return of their security deposit?

The landlord has 30 days to respond to the tenant’s request for the return of the security deposit. The landlord may respond to the request for the return of the security deposit in three (3) ways:

  1. Mail the tenant the full amount of the security deposit;
  2. Mail the tenant a partial amount of the security deposit with an itemized list of deductions for damages or unpaid rent, fees, or utilities; or
  3. Withhold the security deposit and mail an itemized list of deductions that equals or exceeds the security deposit.

What happens if the landlord does not respond within 30 days?

If the landlord does not respond to the request for the return of the security deposit within 30 days, the tenant may sue to recover twice the amount of the security deposit’s value in the Small Claims Court in the city where the rental property is located.

Online tools can help tenants prepare court documents to sue a former landlord for return of the tenant’s security deposit. Go to http://ohiolegalhelp.org/self-help-forms/ and look for “Return of Security Deposit.”

After a tenant files a complaint in court against the former landlord, the court will schedule a hearing to decide if the landlord improperly withheld the security deposit and how much money, if any, the landlord owes the tenant.

This article was written by Dinola Phillips and appeared in The Alert: Volume 35, Issue 1.