Does security deposit have to be returned if the the tenants breached terms of the lease?

UPDATED: Oct 6, 2011

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Does security deposit have to be returned if the the tenants breached terms of the lease?

My tenants are allowed to keep 2 indoor cats per the terms of the written lease. They have 7 adults cats and a litter of kittens plus a pot-bellied pig inside my house. I gave them 2 weeks to remove the excess animals but they did not. I have terminated the month-to-month lease. Because they breached the contract and did not act to remedy their breach, am I obligated to refund their deposit?

Asked on October 6, 2011 under Real Estate Law, Iowa


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

Yes, you unfortuately have to return the deposit, or at least as much of it as is not used to pay for repairs to the premises or to cover unpaid rent that the tenant leaves owing. Those are the *only* two reasons that a landlord may keep a security deposit: to pay for repairs, or to pay for rent. It doesn't matter what other lease terms may have been violated, or what are the grounds for eviction and termination of tenancy; nor does it matter whether the  tenants tried to remedy or cure their breach or not.

If the animals did damage requiring repair or replacement (cats scratched up cabinets; pet urine ruined rugs or carpets; pig hooves left marks on wooden floors; etc.) you would be entitled to apply the security deposit to correcting those conditions.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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