Q&A

Can security deposit be used to pay final month's rent?

Landlords are not obligated to use security deposit funds for the final month's rent

Question: I recently bought my first home, so I will be giving a termination notice to my landlord soon. My security deposit is quite large, and it would help me financially if the landlord allowed me to use it for my final month's rent.

What can the landlord do if I don't pay the final month's rent and instead tell him to use my deposit for last month's rent?

Answer: Landlords are not obligated to use security deposit funds for the final month's rent, unless it is specifically stated in your written rental agreement that the deposit can be used for this purpose.

If your landlord does not agree to use your deposit for the final month's rent, he can serve a 3-Day Pay Rent or Quit Notice to you, which could escalate to a legal action, known as an unlawful detainer (eviction process in court).

Before you decide not to pay the rent, you may want to discuss the situation with the landlord. Depending on your relationship with your landlord and perhaps after viewing the condition of your unit, he may be willing to consider your request and help you out.

If you would like help in this discussion with the landlord, contact the local mediation program in your area. A mediator can bring you and your landlord together under conditions that are neutral and convenient. Mediation would enable you to look for ways to agree on a workable solution.

Absent some agreement with your landlord, it is advisable to pay the rent within the required time period to avoid the cost that would result from an unlawful detainer as well the harm to your credit record.

For more information, contact a local fair housing or mediation program, or Project Sentinel at (888) 324-7468, or visit http://www.housing.org.

Van Deursen is director of Dispute Resolution Programs for Project Sentinel, a Bay Area nonprofit. Send questions to info@housing.org.

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