A security deposit – sometimes referred to as a “damage deposit” – is money that a landlord collects at the start of the tenancy and holds until the end of the tenancy. The maximum amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit is half the monthly rent. If a landlord requires a security deposit, the tenant must pay it within 30 days of the date it is required to be paid.
A security deposit secures the tenancy for the tenant and landlord. Once you have paid your deposit, you cannot decide to move in somewhere else, and your landlord cannot decide to rent to someone else. If you pay a security deposit but then change your mind about moving in, the landlord may be allowed to use your deposit to cover unpaid rent. You may even have to pay additional money beyond the security deposit to cover the costs associated with re-renting the unit, or to cover your landlord’s lost rental income if they have trouble finding a replacement tenant.
In addition to unpaid rent, a security deposit protects the landlord against damage caused to the rental unit. If your landlord believes you are responsible for damage beyond reasonable wear and tear, they can apply to the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB) for permission to keep your security deposit.
Overpaying a Deposit
The maximum amount a landlord can charge for a security deposit or pet damage deposit is half the monthly rent. In other words, if a landlord requires both deposits, they can ask for one full month of rent. If a tenant has overpaid for either a security or pet damage deposit, they can withhold the overpayment from the next month’s rent. Some landlords may not be aware that tenants have this right, so make sure to clearly communicate with your landlord if you decide to withhold rent for this reason. Alternatively, you can apply for dispute resolution through the RTB to recover the overpayment.
- TRAC Webpage – Deposits
- TRAC Template Letter – Withholding Overpayment of Deposit from Rent
- RTA Section 20 – Landlord prohibitions respecting deposits
- RTB Policy Guideline 1 – Landlord & Tenant: Responsibility for Residential Premises