Dec. 28, 2012
I am renting a place with two other roommates, and our lease (the form is the Texas Association of REALTORS® Residential Lease) ends in less than a month. I’ve decided to move out, but my roommates are going to stay. I sent in my notice of termination as the lease required and let the landlord know my forwarding address. I want my portion of the security deposit back, but the landlord is saying he doesn’t have to provide it to me because my roommates haven’t “surrendered the property.” My roommates signed a new lease for another year, so shouldn’t I be getting a refund of my security deposit?
Not yet. Your landlord is correct … the security deposit is not due for refund or an accounting until 30 days after the remaining two tenants surrender the property.
Generally, a landlord has a duty to refund and/or provide a written description and itemized list of all deductions on or before the 30th day after the day the tenant surrenders the rental property. “Surrender” is defined in paragraph 16 of the Texas Association of REALTORS® Residential Lease as “when all occupants have vacated the Property, in Landlord’s reasonable judgment, and one of the following events occurs: (a) the date Tenant specifies as the move-out or termination date in a written notice to Landlord has passed; or (b) Tenant returns keys and access devices that Landlord provided to Tenant under this lease.”
When there are multiple tenants in a rental property, “surrender” does not occur until the last occupant moves out. A landlord may not know what deductions need to be taken out of the security deposit until that time. Additionally, under the lease, the tenants are jointly and severally liable for all provisions in the lease, including damages to the property, which could be taken out of the security deposit. Therefore, it would be difficult for a landlord to refund or account for a security deposit if only one of three tenants has moved out.
Even if you have moved out of the property, returned the keys, given proper notice of termination, provided a written forwarding address and are not delinquent in rent (all the possible reasons a landlord has to delay the security deposit refund and/or accounting), if the remaining tenants extend or sign a new lease with the landlord, no one would be entitled to a refund or accounting of the security deposit yet because not all tenants have surrendered. Therefore, the 30-day clock has not yet been started.
In this situation, you may want to settle the splitting of the security deposit with your roommates. That way you do not have to wait to for a refund or accounting of the security deposit.