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What Should I Do When My Landlord Does Not Return Your Security Deposit?

Seeking and securing a tenancy with a landlord is often thought to be a tedious and troublesome process. One may think that this process ends the moment one has moved into the rented property. Many a times, however, tenants find themselves encountering problems at the end of their tenancies, whereby landlords have been unscrupulous and unreasonably withheld their security deposits.

If you have and/or are concerned with the return of your security deposit, read on to find out what you could do.

What is a Security Deposit?

A security deposit is a one-time, refundable sum of money that a landlord would typically collect from a tenant to protect a landlord financially from damages to a rental or leaves unexpectedly without paying rent, whereby a landlord can then off-set from the said security deposit.

Although it is not required by law, it is typically for landlords in Singapore to collect a security deposit that is equivalent to one or two months’ rent. Often, this is decided by the landlord and depending on price of the property, and furniture and tenants, take for example, a property that is rented to a group of students, that may be considered high-risk, the landlord may ask to secure a higher amount of security deposit.

This security deposit is then refunded to the tenants when the rental period expires. Should any deductions made by the landlord due to damages to the rental property during the tenancy period or unpaid rent, the landlord can set-off the monies used to rectify the damages or rent and the balance of the security deposit, if any, is returned to the tenant.

Can My Landlord Deduct From Security Deposit For Wear And Tear?

Ordinary ‘wear and tear’ includes small scuff marks on walls, or the reasonable wearing down of furniture, such as a blown light-bulb or reasonable fraying of carpets. Generally, these would not constitute as damages to the property to amount to a deduction of the security deposit. It is for the landlord to bear the cost of routine refurbishment, such as painting of the walls.

So What Can I Do If My Landlord Does Not Return My Security Deposit?

One may think that in order to prevent a situation whereby a landlord withholds the return of the security deposit, one can intentionally withhold the payment of rent towards the end of tenancy. However, this will constitute as a breach of contract and the landlord may commence legal proceedings against you for the said breach, if he is able to show some proof of damage. An example of such would be, a landlord shall be eligible for a claim for damages to the rental property, if the security deposit has been used to fully pay up the unpaid rent.

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Commercially, however, there may be situations whereby a tenant may wish to withhold the last month’s rent, although in breach of the tenancy agreement. Such situations could involve dealing with a dishonest or exploitational landlord, whereby a tenant is concerned that his security deposit will not be returned. In such circumstances, a tenant may wish to consider withholding the rent for the final month, and have the security deposit to cover the said rent, provided that there are no damages to the property.

For the avoidance of doubt, one should consult a lawyer to determine if one should withhold the rent for the final month, as each case could differ.

When Does My Security Deposit Gets Returned?

Although there are no strict deadlines imposed on landlords as to the return of the a tenant’s security deposit, it is generally not atypical for landlords to take from anytime between a week to a month. This allows for the landlord to assess the damages (if any) to the property and to make any rectification of the damages, which can then be set-off against the security deposit. To avoid any delays, it would thus be advisable for parties to include a clause within the tenancy agreement that imposes a deadline on when the landlord should return the security deposit.

What Do I Do When Security Deposit Is Not Returned?

Should the landlord refuse to return the security deposit within the stipulated timeframe as set out in the tenancy agreement, despite you having fulfilled your obligations, you may demand for the landlord to provide you with reasons and substantiate any deductions made with any receipts or invoices in relation to repairs of damages to the property.

However, if the landlord refuses to provide the above, you should engage a lawyer to have a letter of demand sent to the landlord, whereby your demands for the security deposit or actions in relation to the same can be set out. Generally, this is an affordable and efficient method to compel a landlord to return the monies.

Should a landlord persist in refusing the return of the security deposit or you are unable to afford engaging a lawyer, you may file your claim with the Small Claims Tribunal (“SCT”) if your claim is under $20,000, for a nominal fee. If the tribunal makes a finding that your security deposit has been wrongfully withheld, an order shall be made on the landlord to return the said deposit to you. However, if you are a foreign expat in Singapore, you should note that your physical presence is required in Singapore, should you wish to file a claim with SCT.

At Emerald Law we have lawyers who are experienced in handling  landlord and tenancy related matters in Singapore. Contact Us today to schedule a free consultation where we can advise you on your situation and provide you with solutions.

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Our specialised lawyers and their team are standing by to assist you. Our first consultation is free.

The information contained within this website contains general information about our lawyers, Law Firm and procedures and is not intended to constitute legal advice.
Any person viewing or receiving information from this Website should not act or refrain from acting, on the basis of any such information without first seeking appropriate legal advice.
Please consult a lawyer for specific review of your case and advise. 

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