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How to Get your Security Deposit Back in Oregon

By definition, security deposits are refundable. Landlords can only retain all or part of the security deposit to:

  1. Remedy your defaults in the rental agreement (such as failure to pay rent); or
  2. Repair damages you caused other than ordinary wear & tear.

Common charges include: (1) a reasonable hourly rate for the cleaning or repair work actually performed; (2) carpet cleaning IF it was cleaned immediately prior to your move-in AND your rental agreement says they can charge for this even if you clean the carpet; & (3) loss of the unit while they performed cleaning/repairs in a timely manner.

Here's how you'll win this: 31 days after termination of the tenancy and delivery of possession (this usually means the day you returned the keys), your landlord must give you a written accounting that explains the specific reasons they are withholding money. Anything not accounted for must be returned to you within that same 31-day period. If your landlord fails to make this written accounting, does so too late, or fails to return all or part of your deposit and its in bad faith, then you are entitled to TWICE the amount withheld.

Here are the types of things that you'll want to show the court:

  1. Proof the landlord missed that 31-day window (the letter they sent you and anything related to your move-out that has a date on it, or, better yet, that no letter was ever mailed).
  2. Proof that the landlord withheld money without specifically stating what it was for.
  3. Any receipts or estimates for repairs or better yet a lack thereof.
  4. Did you and your landlord perform an initial walk-through and check off the conditions of the unit? This can be useful now if they are claiming old repairs that weren't your fault. Also, did you do a post move-out walk-through? This can be useful to show the unit was in good condition and that the money was withheld in bad faith.
  5. Did you take any pictures before you moved out?
  6. Do you have any written communications with your landlord that refer to the condition of the unit and help your case?
  7. Bring a copy of your rental agreement. What does it say about carpet cleaning and the "non-refundable cleaning fee"?
  8. Finally, bring copies of the relevant parts of ORS 90 (the statute I cite below). The portions of this that are going to be most helpful to you are 90.300(6), (11), and (15).

Additional resources provided by the author

The statute that says all of this can be found at: http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/090.html

The parts you should look at specifically are 300(11), 300(15), & 300(6).

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