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Resolving tenant-landlord security deposit disputes

Maryland landlords can legally require tenants to pay security deposits before moving into a rental property, but the state is specific regarding the rules that govern the collection and use of these deposits. Tenants should familiarize themselves with the rights they possess if a problem arises with a security deposit.

Protect Yourself

When you move into a apartment or other rental unit, take photos of the conditions of the floors, walls, and appliances. Do the same when you move out! After you have moved all of your belongings out of the unit, take photos of the conditions. Proof that the unit was in good condition upon move out will help if your landlord decides to keep some of your security deposit.

Security deposit basics

Landlords can charge tenants a maximum amount equal to two months’ rent to secure a property for rental. Tenants’ rights laws require landlords to deposit this money in an account designated to security deposits within 30 days or less once receiving the deposit.

Tenants must receive written acknowledgment that a landlord received a security deposit. Landlords can include this document in the lease agreements. The tenant is also entitled to a $25 payment if they do not receive a receipt for their security deposit.


Under Maryland law, landlords may withhold a portion or all of the security deposit for damage due to breach of lease or for damage in excess of ordinary wear and tear to the leased premises, common areas, major appliances, and furnishings owned by the landlord. We see landlords that take security deposits for everyday turnover expenses and it isn’t right. Maryland’s Attorney General has published Landlords and Tenants: Tips for Avoiding Disputes that discusses security deposit issues. It states clearly that: “A landlord may not keep a tenant’s security deposit to pay for touch-ups and replacements needed due to normal wear and tear.” 

What tenants can do when a dispute arises

If you have run into a situation where your landlord is keeping your security deposit for normal, ordinary wear and tear, there are steps you can take. Sometimes, a discussion between the tenant and landlord is enough to solve a dispute about a security deposit. There is also a Consumer Hotline operated by the Office of the Attorney General that you may want to contact, if you feel that your landlord is in the wrong — 410-528-8662 or 888-743-0023; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Mon.-Fri.

Finally, you may want to explore legal action against your landlord. Under Maryland law, you may be able to recover up to three times your security deposit (with interest applied per law) and attorneys’ fees and costs, if you prove that the landlord wrongfully kept your security deposit.