Can a Landlord Ask For Another Security Deposit?

When renting a property, landlords often require a security deposit to protect their property from any damage caused by tenants.

However, sometimes landlords may feel that the standard security deposit amount is not enough to cover any potential damages, and may ask for an additional security deposit.

This can come as a shock to a tenant and can raise questions about whether it is legal and ethical for a landlord to ask for an additional security deposit.

In this article, I am going to answer whether a landlord can ask for an additional security deposit.

I will cover when it is permitted and when it is not, including a discussion of the legal landscape on this issue and ethical considerations. I’ll also cover best practices for a landlord who is struggling with this question and provide tips on how to maintain a good relationship with your tenant in the midst of this.

If you have don’t have the time to read through it all, here’s a short answer to the question:

A landlord may not ask for another security deposit during the middle of the lease without the tenant’s consent because that would be an attempt to change the lease unilaterally. However, if the additional security deposit is due to a mutually agreed change, like the addition of a pet, it would be allowed, subject to state and local laws on security deposits.

Ok, let’s get into it.

The information contained in this post is for informational purposes only.  It is not legal advice.  You should seek the advice of a qualified legal professional before making any decisions relating to the topics covered by this article.

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What is a Security Deposit?

First and foremost, it’s important to understand what a security deposit is and what it represents.

A security deposit is a sum of money paid by the tenant to the landlord at the beginning of the lease, which is held as collateral in case of any damage caused by the tenant or unpaid rent at the end of the lease.

The security deposit is typically returned to the tenant at the end of the lease, minus any deductions for damages or unpaid rent.

What Does the Law Say About This?

So, can a landlord legally ask for an additional security deposit?

The answer depends on the specific laws and regulations in the location where the property is located. In some places, landlords are allowed to ask for an additional security deposit, while in others, this practice may be restricted or prohibited altogether.

Timing is an important factor in all of this.

For example, if the landlord and tenant are in the middle of negotiating a lease and the landlord asks for a higher security deposit because they discovered something in the tenant’s application that warranted it, that is generally fine (subject to any legal limits on security deposits imposed by state and local laws – more on that below).

But if the landlord is asking for an additional security deposit in the middle of the lease term, that is not permitted because they would be changing the terms of the lease without the consent of the tenant. Such a unilateral change would generally not be enforceable.

Of course, there could also be situations where the tenant is doing something during the middle of the lease term that causes the landlord to ask for an additional security deposit.

A common example is when a tenant asks the landlord to consider allowing a pet and the landlord agrees.

Then the parties may amend the lease to allow this and the landlord may request an additional pet deposit to account for the added risk. This would be ok because the entire arrangement would be memorialized in a formal amendment to the lease and agreed to by both parties.

Now it’s worth remembering that any increase to the security deposit should be in line with state and local laws.

Many states have strict limitations on how much a security deposit can be. In Virginia, for example, the landlord cannot collect more than two months worth of rent as a security deposit. Source.

Whenever you are faced with a situation that could result in an increase to the security deposit, it is always worth checking applicable laws to make sure you are not violating them (or engaging a lawyer to help you).

For your convenience, here’s our 50 state reference table (including D.C.) that will link you to the official landlord tenant laws of your state.

If you prefer to have a lawyer assist you, I would try JustAnswer. They boast access to thousands of highly-rated, verified real estate lawyers whom you can connect with via their unlimited chat service.

By clicking the banner below, you can get a one week trial membership for only $5, which you can cancel at any time.

Ethical Considerations

Even in places where landlords are legally allowed to request an additional security deposit, there are ethical considerations to take into account.

For example, asking for an additional security deposit may be seen as burdensome or unfair to tenants, particularly those who may be struggling financially. This can limit the pool of potential tenants and make it harder for landlords to find suitable renters.

Additionally, there is always the risk that the landlord may unfairly withhold the security deposit at the end of the lease, which can lead to legal disputes and damage to the landlord’s reputation.

This is why it’s important for landlords to be transparent about their expectations and guidelines when it comes to the security deposit, and to provide tenants with clear information about what will happen to their deposit at the end of the lease.

Best Practices For Landlords Struggling With this Issue

If you are a landlord considering asking for an additional security deposit, there are several steps you can take to ensure that you are following the proper guidelines and maintaining a positive relationship with your tenants.

Firstly, make sure that you are familiar with the laws and regulations in your location regarding security deposits. I hate to sound like a broken record here, but knowing your laws will guide your decision making immensely.

Additionally, be clear about your expectations and guidelines when it comes to the security deposit. Provide tenants with a clear list of any deductions that will be made from the deposit at the end of the lease and make sure they understand what they need to do to get their deposit back.

Make sure to put it in the lease.

The more comfort you can give to the tenant that they will receive the security deposit back if they don’t cause damage or otherwise violate the lease will go a long way.

Another option is to work with the tenant to collect the additional security deposit in installments. This can significantly reduce the financial strain on the tenant and build a lot of goodwill with them.

Finally, remember that building a positive relationship with your tenants is key to a successful rental experience. Asking for an additional security deposit can be confrontational, but it doesn’t have to be.

If you are reasonable, explain your rationale and do everything you can to work with your tenant, you can build a positive landlord-tenant relationship that will pay dividends later.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, whether or not a landlord can legally ask for an additional security deposit depends on the timing of the request, the circumstances surrounding the request, and the laws and regulations in their specific location.

Even if it is legal, landlords should consider the ethical implications of asking for additional deposits and take steps to ensure that they are maintaining a positive relationship with their tenants.

This can include being transparent about expectations and guidelines, offering alternative options, and providing clear communication throughout the rental process.

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