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Getting Your Security Deposit Back After You Move

Your landlord has 31 days after you move out to refund your security deposit. Your landlord can keep money from your deposit to cover: 

  • Damage to your rental (other than "ordinary wear and tear"), 

  • Unpaid rent, or 

  • Other money that you owe the landlord. 

If your landlord keeps money from your security deposit, they must give you a written list of the charges (an accounting). 

If you are a Portland renter, and moved into your place after April 30, 2020, different laws apply to you. Refer to this handbook or visit the Portland Rental Services Office for more information. 

The law does not define ordinary wear and tear. You can think of it as how much wear and tear you would expect on a place over time if you used it with normal care. 

  • Example: Small marks on the wall would be probably be normal wear and tear, but large holes or marks are probably not.  
  • Example: Small stains or spotting on the carpet may be ordinary wear and tear, but rips, burns, pet urine, or other large stains are most likely not.

  1. Make sure your place is clean and empty when you move out. Wipe down surfaces and sweep or vacuum floors.
  2. Take photos when you move so you can show how you took care of your place.
  3. Turn your keys in to the landlord or property manager on time. If you will be moving out after hours or aren’t sure how to return your keys, contact your landlord ahead of time to make a plan.
  4. Make sure that you give the landlord a new address when you move out and file a change of address form at the post office. The landlord will send your security deposit and/or a written list of charges to your last known address.

If you hear nothing from your landlord (they don’t return your deposit or send you a list of charges within 31 days) you can send them a letter. If you still don’t hear from them you can file a Small Claims Case against them for two times the amount of the deposit. See Taking Your Landlord to Small Claims Court

If you think your landlord kept more than they should have, but they sent a written list of charges explaining what amounts were taken from the security deposit, you can send them a letter saying you disagree with the charges. If you don’t hear from your landlord, you can file a small claims case for two times the amount you’re owed. Go here to learn about how to sue your landlord in Small Claims Court. 

Yes. Beginning January 1, 2024, landlords can return security deposits electronically, but only if the landlord and renter agree in writing to this. 

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