What warrants withholding a security deposit can be confusing for both landlords and tenants. No landlord wants to be left to deal with old renters’ bills or belongings, and no tenant wants to be taken advantage of and deprived of the money they’re owed. Here are 5 common reasons security deposits are withheld for both landlords and renters to keep in mind:

1. Property damages

It’s important to recognize the difference between extensive damage and natural wear and tear of a property. Natural wear and tear is going to be unavoidable and most of the time requires little work to fix up. Any damage that requires additional labor or the purchase of new parts can typically be taken out of your security deposit. Be sure to report any repairs needed on your property promptly in order to prevent fees from being withheld when your lease period ends.

Additionally, it’s essential to perform a thorough inspection of the property before moving in to document all pre existing damages. This will save you from being held accountable for any issues you weren’t responsible for when it’s time to move out.

2. Cleaning costs

While there are normal cleaning costs a property cannot hold you accountable for, it’s expected that you do your best to remove all trash, furniture, and clean any other excessive messes before vacating. If a cleaning service has to be hired to restore the property, chances are funds will be withheld from your security deposit. It’s in your best interest to take the time to tidy up your property to avoid unnecessary fees from being returned.

3. Unpaid rent or utility bills

Failure to pay monthly rent in a timely manner is a clear breach of lease and is fair grounds for withholding all or part of your security deposit. While a security deposit is typically 1-2 months rent, there may be situations where it doesn’t cover the full amount owed by the renter. In this case, you may be taken to small claims court and required to pay your debt. If you know you’re going to be late on a payment, be upfront with your landlord and they could be more accommodating than you may think. Letting late payments spiral out of control will only worsen the situation.

The same goes for any utility expenses left unpaid. Your security deposit may be used to cover any bills you failed to compensate for.

4. Prematurely breaking a lease

Upon signing a lease, you are required to pay for living in a property for whatever duration stated in the agreement. If a situation arises where you need to relocate and break these terms, the security deposit could be used to take care of any costs your early departure caused. These might include the time and money needed to look for and screen new tenants, fix up the property, market the listing and more.

The same goes for evictions. If at any point you break the terms of your lease and legal proceedings warrant eviction, your security deposit could be used to cover any costs you would have been responsible for before during your lease term.

5. Not being aware of your rights

A lease agreement exists to protect your landlord and you as a renter. It’s essential to make sure you understand and are willing to comply with everything stated in the agreement before signing. As a landlord, make sure you’ve put everything that may warrant withholding of funds in writing to avoid any possible disagreements or misplaced responsibilities.

It’s also important to be knowledgeable of any local laws regarding security deposits or landlord-tenant relations, as they can differ by state. Look into help from a professional if you think you’re being taken advantage of as a tenant.

Keep reading Padlife for more real estate tips and advice.