How Nashville Landlords Can Best Avoid Security Deposit Disputes

Lee Blackburn

You can have a great relationship with your Nashville tenants throughout the lease period and then still find yourself in the middle of a security deposit dispute after that tenant has moved out. 

Security deposits are easy to argue about. Tenants always want to get their full deposit refunded and landlords typically look for ways to use that deposit to pay for repairs that may be needed before a new tenant moves in. 

The best way to avoid any conflicts with your residents is by understanding the details of Tennessee’s security deposit laws and documenting the condition of your rental home before and after the tenancy. 

The best way to avoid security deposit disputes is to conduct a thorough and well-documented move-in and move-out inspection. Open communication with your tenants can also help.

Understanding Wear and Tear vs. Tenant Damage

The most common reason for security deposit disputes is tenant damage. Often, a landlord and tenant cannot agree on what is considered normal wear and tear (the responsibility of the landlord) and what is considered damage (the responsibility of the departing tenant). 

Do not mistake normal wear and tear for damage. Small nail holes in the walls and scuff marks from where the sofa rested cannot be charged to the tenant.

This can be a somewhat subjective area, and it will often come down to reviewing the property condition at the beginning of the lease term and the end of the lease term. If the screen door was off its hinges when a tenant moved in, you cannot charge the deposit to replace that door. But if a tenant’s toddler used crayons and markers on a wall or a floor, you can charge the deposit to repaint or clean the carpets. 

Move-In and Move-Out Inspections for Nashville Rental Homes

After your tenants have vacated and you’ve received the keys and a forwarding address, inspect the vacant property and document its condition. Bring your move-in inspection report with you so you can compare the condition of the home at this point to the condition it was in when the tenants took possession. 

Take pictures to document the property’s condition. If you notice damages that are beyond normal wear and tear, you can charge for that. Make sure you can demonstrate that those things were not broken or damaged at the beginning of the lease. 

Nashville Security Deposit Deadlines

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Tennessee law requires you to return the security deposit to the tenants within 30 days of the tenant moving out. If the tenant isn’t receiving a full deposit refund, you should send the amount that they are getting back with an itemized list of what you’ve deducted and why. Be specific and include receipts, invoices, and other documentation to support what you’ve charged. 

If your tenant disputes what you’ve withheld or you don’t return the deposit in time, you could face penalties. 

Here are the things you can charge a deposit for in Tennessee:

  • Unpaid rent.
  • Other amounts due and owing to the landlord (such as utilities). 
  • Cost of damage to the unit found during the inspection.
  • Cost of damage to the unit not found during the inspection. Damages not found during the move-out inspection can only be charged if the damage is identified within 30 days of the tenant moving out or within seven days of a new tenant moving in (whichever is earlier).

You don’t want a security deposit dispute to escalate into a court battle. Work with your tenants when you can, and be flexible. A $100 charge is not worth the hassle or the stress of a court appearance. 

We can help you avoid security deposit disputes and a lot of the risk involved in renting out a Nashville property. Contact us at Omni Realtors & Property Management.