Many tenants have questions about their security deposit. What it can be withheld for and when it must be returned. The Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act Va.Code§ 55-248.15:1. clearly lays out security deposits basics that all tenants should know.
The Act says:
“A. A landlord may not demand or receive a security deposit, however denominated, in an amount or value in excess of two months' periodic rent. Upon termination of the tenancy, such security deposit, whether it is property or money, plus any accrued interest thereon, held by the landlord as security as hereinafter provided may be applied solely by the landlord (i) to the payment of accrued rent and including the reasonable charges for late payment of rent specified in the rental agreement; (ii) to the payment of the amount of damages which the landlord has suffered by reason of the tenant's noncompliance with § 55-248.16, less reasonable wear and tear; or (iii) to other damages or charges as provided in the rental agreement. The security deposit, any accrued interest and any deductions, damages and charges shall be itemized by the landlord in a written notice given to the tenant, together with any amount due the tenant within 45 days after termination of the tenancy and delivery of possession. Nothing in this section shall be construed by a court of law or otherwise as entitling the tenant, upon the termination of the tenancy, to an immediate credit against the tenant's delinquent rent account in the amount of the security deposit. The landlord shall apply the security deposit in accordance with this section within the 45-day time period. However, provided the landlord has given prior written notice in accordance with this section, the landlord may withhold a reasonable portion of the security deposit to cover an amount of the balance due on the water, sewer, or other utility account that is an obligation of the tenant to a third-party provider under the rental agreement for the dwelling unit, and upon payment of such obligations the landlord shall provide written confirmation to the tenant within 10 days thereafter, along with payment to the tenant of any balance otherwise due to the tenant. In order to withhold such funds as part of the disposition of the security deposit, the landlord shall have so advised the tenant of his rights and obligations under this section in (i) a termination notice to the tenant in accordance with this chapter, (ii) a vacating notice to the tenant in accordance with this section, or (iii) a separate written notice to the tenant at least 15 days prior to the disposition of the security deposit. Any written notice to the tenant shall be given in accordance with § 55-248.6.
The tenant may provide the landlord with written confirmation of the payment of the final water, sewer, or other utility bill for the dwelling unit, in which case the landlord shall refund the security deposit, unless there are other authorized deductions, within the 45-day period, or if the tenant provides such written confirmation after the expiration of the 45-day period, the landlord shall refund any remaining balance of the security deposit held to the tenant within 10 days following the receipt of such written confirmation provided by the tenant. If the landlord otherwise receives confirmation of payment of the final water, sewer, or other utility bill for the dwelling unit, the landlord shall refund the security deposit, unless there are other authorized deductions, within the 45-day period. The landlord shall notify the tenant in writing of any deductions provided by this subsection to be made from the tenant's security deposit during the course of the tenancy. Such notification shall be made within 30 days of the date of the determination of the deduction and shall itemize the reasons in the same manner as provided in subsection.
Such notification shall not be required for deductions made less than 30 days prior to the termination of the rental agreement. If the landlord willfully fails to comply with this section, the court shall order the return of the security deposit and interest thereon to the tenant, together with actual damages and reasonable attorneys' fees, unless the tenant owes rent to the landlord, in which case, the court shall order an amount equal to the security deposit and interest thereon credited against the rent due to the landlord. In the event that damages to the premises exceed the amount of the security deposit and require the services of a third party contractor, the landlord shall give written notice to the tenant advising him of that fact within the 45-day period. If notice is given as prescribed in this paragraph, the landlord shall have an additional 15 day period to provide an itemization of the damages and the cost of repair. This section shall not preclude the landlord or tenant from recovering other damages to which he may be entitled under this chapter.
The holder of the landlord's interest in the premises at the time of the termination of the tenancy, regardless of how the interest is acquired or transferred, is bound by this section and shall be required to return any security deposit received by the original landlord and any accrued interest that is duly owed to the tenant, whether or not such security deposit is transferred with the landlord's interest by law or equity, regardless of any contractual agreements between the original landlord and his successors in interest.
B. The landlord shall:
deposit has been held by the landlord for a period exceeding 13 months beginning from the commencement date of the rental agreement or after the effective date of any prior written or oral rental agreements with the same tenant, for continuous occupancy of the same dwelling unit until termination of the tenancy and delivery of possession, such security deposit earning interest which begins accruing from the effective date of the rental agreement, and such interest shall be paid only upon termination of the tenancy, delivery of possession and return of the security deposit as provided in subsection A;
Maintain and itemize records for each tenant of all deductions from security deposits provided for under this section which the landlord has made by reason of a tenant's noncompliance with § 55-248.16 during the preceding two years; and
Permit a tenant or his authorized agent or attorney to inspect such tenant's records of deductions at any time during normal business hours.
C. Upon request by the landlord to a tenant to vacate, or within five days after receipt of notice by the landlord of the tenant's intent to vacate, the landlord shall make reasonable efforts to advise the tenant of the tenant's right to be present at the landlord's inspection of the dwelling unit for the purpose of determining the amount of security deposit to be returned. If the tenant desires to be present when the landlord makes the inspection, he shall so advise the landlord in writing who, in turn, shall notify the tenant of the time and date of the inspection, which must be made within 72 hours of delivery of possession. Upon completion of the inspection attended by the tenant, the landlord shall furnish the tenant with an itemized list of damages to the dwelling unit known to exist at the time of the inspection.
D. If the tenant has any assignee or sublessee, the landlord shall be entitled to hold a
security deposit from only one party in compliance with the provisions of this section."