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Idaho’s Rental Laws – The Security Deposit Basics

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As a landlord, you are going to face many challenges. Security deposit conflicts, in particular, represent one of the most common issues. 

These conflicts often arise when property damages are left behind after a tenant moves out. The tenant may think that they returned the property in good condition, but the landlord may think otherwise. Luckily, state law helps regulate and protect both parties. 

But first things first – what is a security deposit? 

Simply put, a security deposit is a sum of money a tenant gives to the landlord that is separate from an advanced rent payment. Its purpose is to cushion the landlord in the event that a tenant breaks or violates their lease agreement.

The state of Idaho, like all other states in the nation, has laws structuring how landlords should handle their tenant’s security deposit. 

The following are frequently asked questions about Idaho’s Security Deposit Law. 

When should a landlord return a tenant’s security deposit?

In Idaho, any money deposited with a landlord is either a “deposit” or a “rent.” Rent isn’t refundable. Deposits, on the other hand, are refundable once the lease’s term comes to an end and the tenant moves out. 

According to Idaho’s security deposit law, landlords have 21 days to return tenants’ security deposits once they move out. This period may be extended or shortened if both parties reach an agreement. In such cases, the period must not exceed 30 days. 

Tenants can forfeit the deposit if they give the landlord an improper notice and break the lease early. Under this circumstance, the landlord may use the tenant’s security deposit to cover the costs of re-renting the unit.

What are acceptable reasons to keep a tenant’s deposit?

Security deposits are there to protect landlords in the event of lease violations by the tenant. The vast majority of tenants will get their full deposits back. For the unlucky few, the landlord may use all or part of their deposit to cover various expenses. 

For the security deposit deductions to qualify, the property damage must exceed normal wear and tear.

What is normal wear and tear? 

Here are some examples of damage and wear and tear to help answer that question: 

Damage and Excessive Filth(Tenant’s Responsibility)Ordinary Wear and Tear(Landlord’s Responsibility)
Mirrors with makeup or hairsprayBlack spots on mirrors (de-silver)
Grime-coated bathtub and toiletStains on old porcelain fixtures
Plugged toilets and other plumbingMineral deposits in the toilets
Broken dryer or washerWorn out thermostat on the dryer
Water stains on wood floorsMinor marks on or nicks in floors
Sticky cabinets and water damaged interiorsWarped cabinet doors
Missing or broken blindsModerately dirty blinds or curtains
Pet damage to carpets and curtainsModerate dirt or spots on the carpet
Excessive wall damageMinor marks on or nicks in wall
Broken tiles and torn linoleumWater-stained linoleum by the shower
Cigarette burns in curtains and carpetFaded curtains, carpet and paint

What happens when a landlord fails to return the tenant’s deposit?

Failing to return the tenant’s security deposit can land a landlord in legal trouble. The tenant may, for example, argue that they were not responsible for the property damage listed on the landlord’s deductions’ list. 

In cases like this, tenants in Idaho have three days to demand the amount in contention back. If the landlord remains adamant that the deduction was rightfully made, the tenant can sue the landlord in a small claims court. 

The Idaho small claims court provides a quick, inexpensive, informal and unintimidating way to resolve issues between warring parties.

What is the security deposit limit in the state of Idaho?

Idaho state law doesn’t limit how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. Landlords can charge whatever amount they see fit. Generally speaking, most landlords charge the equivalent of two month’s rent as a security deposit. 

How can you protect yourself from future security deposit problems? 

Important Tips for Idaho Landlords:

  • Keep security deposits in a separate trust or escrow account that’s under your control. 
  • Incorporate video documentation into your move-in process. 
  • Security deposit checks are not extra rent. These are refundable at the end of the lease term. 
  • Don’t be tempted to charge less than you’re entitled to. 
  • Know all the Idaho security deposit laws. 

Important Tips for Idaho Tenants

  • Understand your lease prior to signing it. 
  • Inspect your new rental and point any existing damage, if any. 
  • Confirm when you will get your security deposit back. 
  • Know that your landlord can’t keep your security deposit if you break your lease. 
  • Take action if your landlord fails to give it back. 

Year after year, the return of security deposits is the area where most disputes and conflicts occur. For both Idaho landlords and tenants, the key is to understand the state’s security deposit laws. 

If you have questions or would like to know more about the topic, we at Realty Management would love to help. Please find all our contact information here or call us at (208) 377-8889.