The South Carolina landlord-tenant law allows landlords to collect security deposits from tenants to protect their investment against unforeseen situations like damages, missed rent payments, and more. It is a refundable, one-time payment made by the renters while signing the agreement. But that’s not all. Here are a few things for which Charleston landlords can use the security deposit.
1. Damage To Your Charleston Property
Charleston landlords have the legal right to deduct some portion from a security deposit for the damage caused by tenants. However, they can’t hold a security deposit to cover the cost of normal wear and tear. At times, property owners may get confused when it comes to differentiating between damage and normal wear/tear and withhold the security deposit unnecessarily to cover minor repairs. That is incorrect.
For example, you can deduct the repair costs for the damages like missing curtains, torn carpet, broken windows, toilet seats, and missing handles but you can’t use the security deposit to repair scuff marks, faded paint, wall dents, or a wobbly toilet. Make sure you closely examine the severity of the damage when deducting the security deposit.
2. Cleaning Costs
Generally, landlords pay for garbage removal and routine cleaning as part of the maintenance. However, if there is an unreasonable mess left in the unit, they can hold the security deposit. Conduct a move-out inspection in the property to identify huge amounts of trash like broken furniture, food wastes, empty cans and bottles, and other broken items left behind.
Depending on the amount of trash you need to remove, you can deduct some amount from the security deposit. Best if you keep the receipt of repair and cleaning as proof for deducting the amount.
3. Violation of Lease
The security deposit serves as insurance for landlords, protecting them against any violation of the lease agreement. If tenants break any clause in the lease agreement or abandon the place without giving prior notice, investors can keep the entire security deposit unless the tenants have a valid reason.
If the tenants decide to leave your property before the lease ends, you can ask them to clear the penalties, such as early termination fees, as mentioned in their lease agreement. If they don’t provide 30-days’ notice before moving out, you can charge them a penalty for breaking the lease early which can be deducted from the security deposit.
4. Non-Payment Of Rent
This is the most common phenomenon Charleston landlords may come across while managing their rental business. Often tenants fail to pay rent due to some personal problems, like unemployment. Initially, you can ask them the reason for the delay and give them a concession period if the reason is genuine.
However, if you find that your tenants are deliberately holding out on paying the rent, you may keep the security deposit to cover unpaid rent. Also, while the tenant vacates your property, you should check the outstanding rent amount and deduct it from the security deposit before returning the rest.
5. Unpaid Utilities
Landlords provide several utilities like water, electricity, trash collection, and heat to make the rental unit habitable. Tenants are responsible for paying utility bills, if mentioned in a lease agreement. However, if tenants miss out on bills and leave without clearing the charges, you have the right to hold the rental deposit until they pay the amount.
It is illegal to withhold the security deposit without a valid reason, as mentioned under the landlord-tenant law. You may end up facing a lawsuit if you do not provide proof of what you have used the security deposit for. However, neither can you simply return the deposit and end up paying for tenant damages from your pocket. As a property owner, you will want to protect your investment and take the necessary steps needed.
Hiring an experienced Charleston property manager can help deal with your security deposit concerns and protect your investment. Besides, they can also provide property management services like inspections, comprehensive tenant screening, and detailed lease agreements to ensure that there are no ambiguities regarding the cases in which the deposit will be used.
Meridian Residential Group is a renowned property management company in North Charleston. We manage single-family and multi-family properties in the Charleston, SC area, including North Charleston, Summerville, Goose Creek, and Moncks Corner, among other cities.
For more information about what you can use the security deposit for, contact us.