What’s the deal with security deposit laws in Mississippi?
Let’s say you’ve rented an apartment just outside of Jackson to a young man who always pays his rent on time. And, even though he has a dog, you’ve never found any serious damage to the property. All in all, he’s a great tenant.
But then he gets a job offer up north, and he needs to move next month to be closer to the office. Knowing the law, he gives you 30 days notice via email, and later, you have an amiable conversation about it and agree on a move date.
So he moves, and he expects that some money will be taken out of the deposit because the dog has chewed on one corner of the carpet and there are some marks on the wall. But then, 45 days after his move, he still hasn’t received any of his security deposit. He calls you, confused, and asks when he’ll see his money. And this goes on for a while. Are you responsible for returning his money even though he never gave you notice in writing?
The truth is, you’d probably never withhold money from a former tenant who has been good and left behind little to no damage to your property. But, because of some obscurities in security deposit law, by not sending notice in writing (outside of email), many tenants in Mississippi face this exact situation. These disputes often end in court, so it’s best to follow the letter of the law and ensure that your tenant is also aware of the process for receipt and return of any deposits.
Do landlords need to charge tenants a security deposit in Mississippi?
While it isn’t necessary to do so, many Mississippi landlords charge their tenants a security deposit because it can be very helpful in the event that something unfortunate happens during a tenant’s occupancy. This could include serious damages or unauthorized changes to the property, or if a tenant vacates the property without warning, or otherwise in violation of the lease agreement.
Ideally, having money returned to them at the end of their stay is incentive enough to respect the lease and the property. But if it’s not, consider the deposit as a bit of insurance to cover the cost for serious damage or legal costs if necessary.
What are the limits on rental deposits in Mississippi?
There currently aren’t any state laws that limit security deposits. Common sense dictates that it would be an amount reasonable enough to keep a potential renter’s interest, while still ensuring the landlord has proper coverage should worst come to worst. Most often, landlords request one month’s rent up front as a security deposit. There may be specific limits in your municipality, so it’s a good idea to check the laws in your town or city.
For example, if you’re renting a 1-bedroom apartment in Biloxi for $550 a month, it’d be reasonable to ask for an additional $550 to act as the security deposit during their tenancy.
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Do landlords need to provide a receipt for a security deposit?
No. There are no laws in Mississippi that require a landlord to provide a written notice or receipt after receiving their security deposit. But, if you do accept a security deposit, it’s probably a good idea to provide proof of receipt that includes the amount and the date the money was accepted. It’s common to include this information in the lease agreement.
Does the money need to be kept in a separate account to allow it to accrue interest?
No, there is no law that requires landlords in Mississippi to keep their tenants’ security deposits in a separate account, nor to accrue interest. However, and again, in the interest in keeping track of this money for potential legal purposes, it might be a good idea to keep security deposit money in an account that is separate from other business accounts.
What can security deposit money be used for?
- Repairing significant property damage like a broken window, large hole in the wall, replacing damaged carpet, etc.
- Tenant’s share of real estate tax, depending on the terms of the lease
- Nonpayment of rent, or late rent
Also note there should be a reasonable distinction made between tenant damage, and general wear-and-tear. Tenant damage can be defined as the result of negligent or irresponsible behavior, where wear-and-tear is a byproduct of living in the property. Along with the given examples, you could also include smoke/fire damage, broken doors, and holes in the floor. Examples of wear-and-tear could include simple things like scuff marks on the floor, nail or pin-holes, and loose bathroom tiles.
What is the deadline to return a security deposit in Mississippi?
The deposit, minus any damages, if applicable, should be returned within 45 days of the tenant vacating the property.
After the tenant has completely moved out from the property, the landlord has 45 days to compile an itemized list of damages and repairs to the property, including deductions from the deposit if necessary. It should be sent with the remainder of the deposit.
Do landlords need to notify renters of security deposit money used to fix damages?
Yes. After a tenant has moved out, create an itemized list of any significant damage or any cleaning that needs to be done. Include the estimated cost of repairs or cleaning. In the event that you’ve already had these repairs made, it’s important to include any receipts with your letter. Return with the remaining deposit 45 days after the tenant has moved.
Where can I learn more about Mississippi Security Deposit laws?
If you have any questions, or think you may want to learn more about security deposit laws in Mississippi, please consult a lawyer.
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