A Colorado Tenant’s Guide to Security Deposits

A security deposit is any amount of money that your landlord collects from you (the tenant) and holds on to until you move out, to ensure that you pay rent, utility bills, and any damage charges. Your landlord keeps the deposit while you are renting, but it is technically still your money. A security deposit is often one-month’s rent. Colorado Legal Services.

When should you get your security deposit back?

Your landlord must return your security deposit (or a written statement itemizing deductions from your deposit) within one month of the end of your lease, unless your lease allows more time (not exceeding 60 days). Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(1).

How much of your security deposit should be returned?

Your landlord may be able to keep some or all of your deposit for the following reasons:

  • to make up for missed rent payments
  • to cover unpaid utility charges
  • to repair damage to the apartment
  • to clean the apartment, if you agreed to it in your lease

Your landlord cannot keep any portion of your deposit for “normal wear and tear.” This can include faded paint, worn hinges on doors or locks, and old and worn carpet. See Coloradorenters.org.

If your landlord does have a good reason to keep some or all of your deposit, then she must give you a written statement itemizing the specific deductions from your deposit. Also, your landlord must return to you the remaining portion of your deposit with that written statement. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(1).

What steps can you take early on to make sure that you get your security deposit back?

As discussed above, when you move out, your landlord will charge you for any damage to the apartment. However, your landlord cannot charge you for “normal wear and tear.” You should document the state of your apartment when you move in, as well as when you move out, in case you and your landlord disagree about the presence of any damage.

General rule: If you leave the apartment in the same condition as when you moved in, you should get your security deposit back (as long as you paid your rent, paid your utilities, etc.). See Colorado Renters.org.

To document the condition of your apartment, follow these steps:

  • Before you move in: Walk through the apartment with your landlord and point out any damage that you see. Make a list of any issues and have your landlord sign it. Take pictures of each room and the specific damage.
  • When you move out: Again, take pictures of the apartment. Keep these pictures in case your landlord does not return some or all of your deposit.

What if your landlord doesn’t return your security deposit?

If your landlord doesn’t return your deposit or give you a written statement of the itemized deductions within one month of the end of your lease (or within 60 days if the lease permits) then your landlord loses her right to keep any portion of your deposit. You should get the full amount of your deposit back. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(2).

If your landlord willfully and wrongfully kept your deposit, you may be able to sue your landlord for three times the amount of the deposit. Colo. Rev. Stat. § 38-12-103(3)(a).

To try to get your deposit back, follow these steps:

  • Send a letter to your landlord using certified mail demanding the deposit.
    • Here is a sample seven-day demand letter for when your landlord does not send you your deposit or a written statement listing itemized deductions.
    • Here is a sample letter disputing the charges for when you don’t agree with your landlord’s itemized deductions.
  • If you don’t hear from your landlord within seven days, consider pursuing the matter in Small Claims Court. See Colorado Legal Services for more information on filing a claim in court.

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