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Does the landlord not want to return your security deposit?

What is a deposit/security deposit

This is a sum of money negotiated between the landlord and the tenant, and the maximum amount is three times the monthly rent. A security deposit is a form of loan provided by the tenant to the landlord, which can be used to pay for damage to the apartment or rent owed.

As it is a loan, in addition to repayment of the original amount, the tenant is also entitled to interest at least at the legal rate (unfortunately, it is currently not clear to which legal rate this provision refers, but it may be at least 0.5% per annum).

The return of the security deposit is due on the first day after the termination of the tenancy. If the deposit is not returned, it can be enforced in court.

The security deposit can in no way be seen as remuneration to the owner for renting the apartment, nor can the owner keep it for renovation of the apartment due to normal wear and tear.

Damage to the apartment and normal wear and tear

Damage to the flat is when the tenant destroys the furnishings of the flat so that they have to be replaced or repaired, damages the item, breaks it, etc.

Normal wear and tear is natural to the furnishings of the dwelling in relation to its use. Such wear and tear does not constitute damage which would justify non-repayment of the full amount of the security deposit. 

The reduction in the amount the landlord has to pay back to you can only be the value of the repairs to the damage to the flat or the rent due (if the damage is greater, then the tenant must pay the balance). It is not possible for the landlord to keep the deposit, e.g. for cleaning the flat.

What to do if the landlord doesn’t want to return your security deposit

Let him/her know that you know your rights and insist on them; you can use the explanation above to do this.

Make it clear that you are willing to seek the return of the deposit through the courts. The first step is to send a pre-action notice, you can use the attached template.

Contact the Tenants’ and Women Tenants’ Initiative. Together we can think about what can be done. We can accompany you to the meeting with the landlord, and together we can create pressure for a fair hearing.

More tips

As soon as the apartment is handed over, take a careful photo or video of the condition of the apartment. It is also a good idea to have the owner confirm in writing that the documentation corresponds to the actual reality. Then back up the photo documentation so that you can find it in several (many) years. The documentation then serves as evidence of the extent of damage to the apartment’s furnishings during your tenancy.