When you consider moving to an apartment, you have to factor in all the costs. One of them is the security deposit. You probably know you need to budget for it, but how much is a security deposit on an apartment? And why isn’t the amount the same at every community? There are a few variables that determine that number.

What is the average security deposit for an apartment?

On average, the security deposit is equal to one month’s rent. So, you want to keep this number in mind when calculating how much money you’ll need to give your landlord at move-in. Many landlords require the security deposit and first month’s rent (and sometimes last month’s rent too) before they’ll give you keys.

Coming up with this amount of money may seem overwhelming. But, remember that if you’re in an apartment now, and you haven’t damaged it, you might a security deposit coming back to you. You should receive it within 30 days after you move out. (If you’ve earned its return, but you don’t receive it within 30 days, contact the office).

Where can I find the security deposit amount for a unit?

The amount owed for security deposit should be on the application, and must be on the lease. Before deciding on an apartment, make sure you have the dollar amount of the security deposit in writing.

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How much can a landlord charge for a security deposit?

That’s up to the landlord. The average is one month’s rent, but some will charge up to three months’ rent. Most states have a limit to what can be charged, but there are some states that have no maximum.

If everyone else in the area is charging one month’s rent for security deposit, the landlord may want to do the same, to lease the unit. If you’ve seen evidence of that, take it with you in order to negotiate.

Why would a landlord charge more than one month rent for the security deposit?

Some property management companies have a policy that the deposit is 1.5 or two times the monthly rent. However, another reason your deposit may be quoted as higher is due to your less-than-perfect credit history. The landlord may want to rent to you but must offset the risk by charging you a higher security deposit.

Related: How to break bad financial habits

Pet deposits

If your landlord allows your pet to move in, there will be an additional pet deposit due before the landlord gives you the keys. If your dog or cat is a service or therapy animal, the pet deposit is waived with a doctor’s note. Bear in mind, you are still financially responsible for any damage your service or therapy animal does to the apartment. (Good luck with that miniature horse!)

When is the security deposit less than one month’s rent?

Some low-income tax credit properties have lower security deposits for those with good credit.  In a market-rate complex, a lower security deposit might be offered to incentivize more people to move in.

Paying the security deposit and the first (and sometimes last) month’s rent can be tough, but it’s part of moving. Just remember, you do get your deposit back if you leave your unit in good condition when you move out. It’s part of the business. Once you get that part out of way you can focus on making your new apartment feel like home.

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