Follow the statute. Water damage is not normal wear and tear. Lawn mower damage is not normal wear and tear.
The Illinois Security Deposit Return Act (765 ILCS 710) applies to Illinois landlords for residential property containing five units or more in an apartment complex or in a single building. This Legal Guide explains the most basic aspects of this detailed legislation.
Deposit is Tenant's money
An Illinois a landlord may not keep any part of a security deposit unless the landlord has, within 30 days from the date the tenant vacates a property, delivered an itemized statement of damages containing estimated or actual costs, including receipts (for estimated costs, the landlord must send a receipt within 30 days of the date of the letter) to the tenant.
The security deposit may be used to setoff any damage done to rental property. In Illinois it is not an advance on rent.
Deposit Secure until Used
In all cases covered by the Illinois statute, while the landlord holds the security deposit, the security deposit funds remain the tenant's property.
A tenant may sue if the landlord does not follow the statute. See a lawyer to discuss the particular details of your situation to establish a plan by a strategy with appropriate trial tactics discussed. Call me if you want to retain experience counsel.