What to do if landlord cuts a huge part of the deposit?

Usually a rental agreement specifies that the landlord might, within reasonable limits, deduct repair charges from the rental advance/ security deposit for damages caused by the tenant during the tenancy. However there are a few grey areas here.

Firstly are the damages solely attributable to the tenant or were they pre existing?

Secondly who decides what is a fair amount of repair charges to be deducted? 

The question is what could the tenant do if the landlord cuts a huge part of the deposit.

Typically – it always makes sense to capture all the existing issues of a rental home just before the tenant moves in. This way, any issues that pre-existed can be clearly kept out of repair charges calculation. 

Nevertheless, here are the steps that you should take if your landlord has cut a huge part of your deposit:

  1. Talk to the landlord and tell him/her that you find the deduction to be unreasonable. Ask for justification from the landlord about the deductions. Convince the landlord about what you think is an appropriate amount for repairs.
  2. If speaking to the landlord does not work, send a formal email to the landlord about how you feel about the deduction, the reasons why you feel the deduction is unjust and the fact that you are considering getting legal advice about recovering the security deposit from the landlord. 
  3. If the landlord does not respond to the email as well, consider approaching a lawyer and asking him to sending a formal notice to the landlord asking for the return of the security deposit. 
  4. If the issue remains unresolved even after this, you should talk to the lawyer and take his opinion on the legal options ahead of you. 

Do note that once you approach a lawyer, your costs go up significantly as well – therefore make sure that the amount of time and money that you spend with your lawyer is justified by the money that you hope to get back. Therefore it is always better to try to convince the landlord using steps 1 and 2. Steps 3 and beyond are always an escalation and the ends should justify the means.