Whether tenants are entitled to a refund of all or a portion of their security deposit is often one of the more hotly contested issues with landlords. Although Nevada’s laws on point sometimes appear complex, here are a few basics governing residential security deposits:
• The landlord may not demand or receive a security deposit (including last month’s rent) that exceeds three months of rent.
• When the tenancy is terminated, the landlord may only claim that portion of the security deposit reasonably necessary to cure missed rent payments, to repair damage caused by the tenant other than normal wear and tear, and to clean the premises.
• The landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized written accounting of the disposition of the security deposit and return any remaining amount within 30 days after the tenancy is terminated.
• The landlord may be liable to the tenant for failure to return any remaining balance in a timely manner.
Some of the more common legal battles arise out of the italicized words reasonably necessary and normal wear and tear. For instance, what the landlord considers damage is often viewed by the tenant merely as normal wear and tear. The legislature provided minimal guidance on the meaning of these terms, allowing judges discretion to decide such issues on a case-by-case basis. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes cold comfort to disputing parties.
Of course, many landlord-tenant disputes can be avoided by simply entering into a well-written lease agreement clearly setting forth each party’s rights and obligations. A competent attorney can help you prepare such an agreement and avoid common pitfalls from the outset.