Security Deposits

In Oregon, most landlords will require tenants to pay a security deposit at the start of a tenancy. Make sure you get a receipt! There is no state-wide limit on how much a deposit can be. However, there are limits within the City of Portland.

Think of a security deposit like a loan you give to your landlord to ensure that you pay your rent and keep the place in good condition. If you don't pay your rent or fees, or if you cause damage to your rental beyond normal wear-and-tear, your landlord may be able to keep some or all of your security deposit. Otherwise, your landlord must return your entire security deposit after you move out. There are no “non-refundable” security deposits for rental homes in Oregon.

The rules about security deposits are found in ORS 90.300. When your lease ends and you move out, your landlord has 31 days to mail to you (or hand to you) 100% of your security deposit. If your landlord wants to keep any part of your deposit (for the reasons discussed above), your landlord must give you an itemized explanation of any money they are keeping within that same 31 day period of time.

It seems like nothing can stop bad landlords from stealing tenant security deposits; landlords break the rules on this issue all the time. But when they do, tenants may be able to sue them for twice the amount of money in dispute. For example, landlords often fail to send back deposit money within the 31-day time period. Or, landlords try to bully tenants out of their security deposit money by making up bogus damage claims.

Don't let your landlord screw you out of your security deposit. Call Portland Defender - we can help you get your security deposit back.

What is a deposit and can landlords ask for deposits?

A deposit is an amount of money that a tenant gives to a landlord in case the tenant owes the landlord money later on. Landlords are free to require deposits (in any amount) and typically deposits are required. Money a tenant deposits doesn’t become the property of the landlord – the landlord is simply holding onto the money during the tenancy. All deposits are refundable. In Oregon, there is no such thing as a “non-refundable deposit.” If your landlord is trying to charge you a “non-refundable deposit,” then either  your landlord is trying to cheat you, or your landlord is simply ignorant of Oregon’s laws. In Oregon, all deposits are refundable. If you don’t owe your landlord any money once you have moved out, your landlord is required to give back your entire deposit.

What is a fee, and what can fees are allowed?

Fees are, by definition, non-refundable payments to your landlord. Once you pay a fee, you will never get it back. Landlords are only allowed to charge a few different types of fees. The most common are:

  • Late fees, but only certain amounts, and only if landlords follow very specific rules;
  • Bounced check fees, but only up to $35.00;
  • Smoke or carbon monixide alarm tampering fees, but only up to $250.00;
  • Early termination fees, but only up to 150% of one month’s rent;
  • Fees for rule violations, such as failing to pick up dog poop, or parking violations. But, the landlord must first give you a specific warning for your first offense; for your second offense, a landlord may charge a fee of up to $50.00.

Remember – landlords aren’t required to give fees back if the fees were legal to begin with.

What should a tenant do if a landlord is breaking Oregon’s laws about fees and deposits?

Landlords love to take advantage of tenants who don’t understand their rights. If you think your landlord is trying to screw you, call a lawyer at Portland Defender. Every day, we help protect Oregon tenants from bad landlords. 

Call (503) 592-0606 for a free case evaluation

Portland Defender PC

3759 NE MLK Jr. Blvd
Portland, OR 97212
(503) 592-0606
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