My Landlord Ate My Security Deposit

The most frequently asked questions we get regarding residential leases undoubtedly center around the return of a renter’s security deposit.

In Louisiana, the rules and mechanics governing the return of a lessee’s security deposit is governed by the aptly named Lessee’s Deposit Act. See  La. R.S. 9:3251-3254. Broadly stated, a landlord/lessor must return your security deposit to you within one month after the lease ends. In order to accomplish that, the law requires that you must also leave your landlord an address where they can forward the check. 

That does not mean that your landlord is required to return your entire deposit. Your landlord/lessor may retain any portion of your deposit reasonably necessary to remedy any default/breach of the lease and/or to fix any unreasonable damage or wear to the property. If your landlord does retain any portion of your deposit for damages, they must send you a written itemized statement explaining the amounts they are withholding and why, and returning the remainder of your deposit within thirty days.

If your landlord does not return your deposit or give you itemization of why they are not returning your deposit within thirty days, the law provides that you may be able to recover damages or a penalty, which would require instituting some type of legal claim.  See  La. R.S. 9:3252.

A far better outcome though, is avoiding the need to even seek judicial intervention. Common sense, and a little foresight can  go a long ways in getting you your security deposit back. Make sure you complete a walk through upon moving in, take pictures, document any damages or non-working items, and let your landlord know about  any damage or problems writing. Similarly, when you move out, make sure to take pictures and videos of the property, showing that you left the property clean and damage free.

- Chris M. Short is an associate at Kiefer & Kiefer.  

This is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice.

Megan Kiefer