Security Deposits: Renters’ Rights You Need to Know

A security deposit is an amount of money you pay to your landlord to cover any damage incurred or necessary cleaning of the rental property once your lease has expired. It’s also one of the most common sources of disagreement between landlords and tenants.

Security Deposits FAQ

Rental laws vary from state to state, with some states dictating certain procedures that landlords must follow for refunding, using and accounting for a tenant’s security deposit. The following tips are some of the basics that every tenant should know about security deposits, because what you don’t know can cost you.

Q: Why is my landlord requiring me to pay a security deposit?
A: Security deposits are a guarantee that you will keep the rental in good condition. If you owe back rent or late fees when you move out, your landlord may deduct that amount from your deposit. Your landlord may also deduct from the deposit the cost of cleaning and repairs beyond normal wear and tear.

Q: How much can my landlord charge for a security deposit?
A: Every state allows landlords to charge a security deposit, but how much they can charge varies. In some states, limits are as low as $100, while others allow for security deposits equal to three months’ rent. Furthermore, 24 states have no statutory limits for how much you can be charged for a security deposit.

Q: What does my landlord do with my deposit during my tenancy?
A: Generally, landlords are required to put security deposits in bank accounts and may not commingle deposits with their own money. Many states require your landlord to notify you where the account is kept; this notification is often detailed in your lease. In some states, these accounts earn interest that you may be entitled to, and in some markets, your landlord may be entitled to a small portion of the accrued interest as an administrative fee.

Q: What can be deducted from my security deposit?
A: Landlords bear the brunt of taking care of the things that wear out in the rental, such as carpeting, floor finishes and fading paint. If you damage the property, repairs are your responsibility. If your child colors on the walls or you accidentally crack a tile in the bathroom, those repairs will come out of your deposit. Even if a guest who doesn’t live with you breaks something, you are liable for those repairs.

Q: When will my deposit be returned?
A: Again, this varies by state, but in general, within 14 to 60 days, your landlord is obligated to return to you:

  • Your full deposit (plus interest, in some cases), or
  • Part of your deposit, along with a statement of the costs that were deducted from your deposit, with an explanation of how those costs were used for cleaning, repairs or back rent and late fees

Two states have no set limits: Tennessee has no statutory deadline, and New York only requires that deposits be returned within “a reasonable time.”

Q: What can I do to make sure I get back all of my deposit?
A: Carefully document the state of your rental by completing a move-in inspection form. Take pictures of any problems, and use your camera’s time-stamp function or include that day’s newspaper in the photo. You and your landlord should each sign and keep a copy of this form. Before you move out, ask your landlord to walk through your rental with you so that he or she can point out issues you should resolve before you leave. If necessary, hire a professional to clean your apartment.

Q: What if my landlord doesn’t return my security deposit?
A: When you move out, be sure to give your new address to your landlord, and cover your bases by sending a demand letter by certified mail. A demand letter simply requests the return of your deposit. In some states, if you don’t send a demand letter, your landlord may be entitled to keep your deposit.

If your landlord doesn’t respond, you may sue your landlord in small claims court for the return of your deposit. In some locations, if the court finds that your landlord has intentionally broken the law, you may be awarded two or three times the amount of the deposit, plus lawyer’s fees.

Tasha Schroeder contributed to this post.

Originally published by Neil J. Leitereg on To see the original post, click here.



The Most Expensive Apartment Listing in Manhattan

Consider it an empty canvas — albeit a very expensive, enormous canvas.

from Zillow

from Zillow

This empty 62,000-square-foot apartment just hit the market in Manhattan for $130 million and has replaced a $125 million penthouse as the most expensive listing in New York. The Residence at River House is also the new No. 2 on the most expensive homes list, trailing just behind the $140 million estate in Greenwich, CT.

The reason an empty condo is so expensive? The opportunity to create “what will truly be one of the grandest urban residences in the world,” according to the listing.

from Zillow

from Zillow

River House was constructed in 1931 by American architect William Bottomley, and when it opened was one of the premier addresses in the city. Overlooking the East River, the $130 million home (the largest in the Big Apple) sprawls across 5 levels and features 20-foot ceilings, enormous view-filled windows and “light-filled spaces.”

from Zillow

from Zillow

A proposed design by Tony Ingrao incorporates an IMAX movie theater, wine cellar, 62-foot-long pool with full spa, as well as an oversized master suite.

from Zillow

from Zillow

While $130 million is an incredible price for a home anywhere in the country, it’s even quite considerable for Manhattan. While a $125 million penthouse is on the market, as well as a home listed at $115 million and another at $95 million, the median list price in Turtle Bay, where this home is located, is currently $1.4 million.

The real question is what would a mortgage payment be like for a home this expensive? Using Zillow’s mortgage calculator, it’s worked out to be $501,320 per month, assuming a 20 percent down payment and 30-year mortgage. That’s more than three times the median U.S. home value.

Of course not all homes in New York are quite this fantastically priced. Check out other homes for sale in Manhattan.

The listing is held by John Burger of Brown Harris Stevens.

This article was originally published by Erika Riggs on Zillow Blog. To see the original article, click here.

10 Things to Do After You Sell

You’ve sold your house: Escrow has closed, and you’ve handed your keys to the new owners. But while the deal is done, you have a few more things to do. In “House Selling for Dummies,” authors Eric Tyson and Ray Brown lay out things you can do to save money and increase your peace of mind, post-sale.

10 Things to Do After You Sell

Here are 10 of their tips:

  1. Keep copies of all paperwork related to the closing and settlement. Although it might be tempting to shred the paperwork or put it in storage, you’ll want to have it handy for April 15. When you file your taxes, you’ll need documentation for the expenses and proceeds of the sale. And after you file your return, you’ll want to keep the paperwork in case you’re audited.
  2. Keep proof of improvements and prior purchases. This is for tax purposes, too. The IRS allows you to add the cost of improvements to your home’s cost basis during the time you own the home, which is nice if you have a sizable capital gain. But to use this tax provision, you need to keep receipts for everything you spent on home improvement.
  3. Stay on top of tax laws. Because tax laws constantly change, you’ll want to keep current to avoid losing money. For example, a recent law allows you to exclude from tax a significant portion of the profits from the sale of your primary residence.
  4. Put your proceeds in a money market fund. If you sell and then don’t immediately buy, you’ll need a safe place to put your money. A money market mutual fund offers safety, a reasonable rate of return, daily access to your money and check-writing privileges.
  5. Choose your next home carefully. Scope out a variety of areas and housing options that meet your family’s needs.
  6. Don’t feel pressured to buy. Take your time purchasing your next home; rent for awhile if you’d like extra time or want to try an area out first before buying. “Keep in mind that you have two years to defer tax on your house-sale profits,” Tyson and Brown point out.
  7. Reevaluate your personal finances. If your situation changes before you buy another house—you get a promotion, have a baby, go through a divorce—you’ll need to rethink your finances and how much you can afford to pay for your new house.
  8. Think about what you need from an agent to help you buy. Carefully consider whether the agent who helped sell your house can meet your needs when you’re buying. Buying and selling require different skills. And, if you’re moving to a new area, you may want someone familiar with the area.
  9. Think through your next down payment. Brown and Tyson recommend putting at least 20 percent down on your next house in order to qualify for the best mortgage programs. If you can afford more than 20 percent, consider whether it’s better to put that money in the down payment or to invest the money elsewhere. “Younger home buyers willing to take on more investment risk should lean toward a 20-percent down payment, whereas older home buyers, who tend to invest less aggressively, should opt for larger down payments,” the pair recommends.
  10. Remember to send change-of-address notices. The U.S. Postal Service recommends you complete your change of address 30 days before you move.

This information was originally published by Michele Dawson on To see the original article, click here.

Falling Into Foliage With 7 Stunning Private Homes

Fall: Crisp air, warm sweaters, sweet apples and glorious explosions of colorful autumn splendor.

Some homes are shown to their best advantage in fall, surrounded by trees, rolling landscapes and warm fireplaces near picture windows that perfectly capture the season. Like the thousands who flock to New York and New England for leaf-peeping this time of year, we also took a peek at properties that offer colorful seasonal panoramas. Warm the cider, pull on a blanket and take a look.



Fishing for Paradise



Dip your toes where presidents fished at Trout Run, a more than 450-acre estate near the presidential retreat of Camp David in Maryland’s Catoctin Mountains.

A two-mile-long stream through sun-dappled forest gives this angler’s paradise a name, while hunting grounds provide outdoorsmen an ideal way to enjoy the season. There are separate guest quarters, including one with an enclosed, heated porch for the less adventurous — a space that was a favorite of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Hallowed in Vermont



The colors of the season surround this classic slice of rustic comfort in Vermont, with three ponds amplifying the reflection of the burnished trees amid the rolling hills of the Green Mountain State.

Trails along the 25-acre property provide a perfect excuse for a stroll. Leave your Wellies in the mudroom and warm up by one of the two stone fireplaces.

Run Free



If that’s still not enough leaves to satiate your peepers, how about another 100 acres worth of rolling red and gold Vermont hills?

This center-hall country classic includes a separate, five-story barn with office and guest quarters, so friends and family can join you amid the maples. Stalls welcome the equine-inclined.

Water, Water Everywhere



Across the state line with New York, pull up an Adirondack chair to this multimillion-dollar view of Kattskill Bay. Nature lies as close as the bay’s waters, which practically lap the home’s front door — a rarity in an area that typically requires a 100-foot setback.

Scandinavia in New York



Closer to New York City, you’d expect a pillar of Scandinavian design to erect a house worthy of the name. Jans Quistgaard, the mind behind the Swedish Dansk Designs, did his nation proud in a Westchester suburb.

The roof’s many arches perfectly frame the trees and water before wall-sized picture windows. The biggest danger here might be never wanting to leave.

Capital Destination



Farther south, a contemporary aerie above a Potomac River hilltop offers another modern vantage point. The home was designed to meld effortlessly with the natural beauty of the site.

The home’s wood siding gives way to glass expanses that offer views from every inside seat, and an outside patio boasts near 360-degree views of the foliage.

Mainer Bound



Finally, this Maine property holds a special place in our hearts, with more than 1,200 feet of frontage along Penobscot Bay in Camden, including three private beaches and views of wooded islands and hills.

The view is interrupted only by sailboats. But what really captured us was the rainbow arching over the water. Can you imagine that tree ablaze in autumn? Sign us up.

This article was originally published by Anne Miller on To see the original article, click here.

See the Real Homes of ‘Breaking Bad’

Saddle up and take a deep breath, all of you tense-with-anticipation fans of “Breaking Bad.”

Jesse Pinkman and Walter White from “Breaking Bad.” Source: AMC

Jesse Pinkman and Walter White from “Breaking Bad.” Source: AMC

That’s the advice from Peter Gould, the writer of the penultimate episode of the genre-bending TV series that’s set to conclude at 9 p.m ET Sunday on AMC.

What’s going to happen?!

“I think they should do some deep breathing. Sit in a comfortable chair. Try not to eat for 45 minutes before. Each of these episodes screened, and I’m so excited about the response,” said Gould, who penned last week’s intensely fraught “Granite State” episode.

In addition to turning the concept and execution of a TV drama series on its head, “Breaking Bad” also has contributed to the pantheon of TV shows that have turned certain swaths of real estate into co-stars. In the case of “Breaking Bad,” the showplace has been Albuquerque, NM, where a string of real locations have become tourist attractions and photo opportunities throughout the five seasons of the Emmy Award-winning show.

The dusty, rocky, light-infused desert location of this monster series gave it a particular look and feel. In homage to the show’s conclusion, here’s a look at the places where Walter White and his “Yo-Yo” sidekick, Jesse Pinkman, go from artistic meth-makers to drug kingpins in the ABQ.

My name is …

Source: Google Street View

Source: Google Street View

As Walt begins his transformation from suburban-dwelling teacher to drug lord, the very first words uttered on the show place him squarely at the imagination-deprived dwelling in which he somewhat cowardly had been just getting by:

“My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico.”

In reality, Walter’s home is at 3828 Piermont Dr NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111.

Either way, by the end of the series, the condition of Walt’s home mirrors his own descent into hell. Gasoline has been soaked into the rugs. The pool is a sordid mess of scum and leaves. And there’s a chain-link fence run around the entire perimeter of the property, since the Drug Enforcement Administration is hunting for Walt.

No, Mr. White, you can’t go home again.

Yo, like, Jesse Pinkman lived here

Source: Google Street View

Source: Google Street View


For a punk druggie, Jesse Pinkman lives in a very nice crib. But very soon into Season 1, we learn the house where Walter and Jesse make quite a mess was left to Jesse by his aunt. Without spoiling any more of the plot, let’s just say that Jesse finds himself out of luck at the nice abode.

On the show, the address is shown as 9809 Margo St. But in reality this single-family home on a quarter-acre lot is at 322 16th St SW, Albuquerque, NM 87104. The Huning Castle neighborhood,where homes are listed for sale from $220,000 to just shy of $1 million, is located near the Albuquerque Country Club.

Hank and Marie’s house

Source: Google Street View

Source: Google Street View

Hank is a federal Drug Enforcement Administration officer. He is married to Marie, who is the sister of Walter’s wife, Skyler. Tracking with us so far? Anyway, Hank and Marie are a big part of the show, and their superior station in life compared to Walt and Skyler’s is demonstrated by their nice stucco home at 4901 Cumbre Del Sur Ct NE, Albuquerque, NM 87111.

Duplex love

Source: Google Street View

Source: Google Street View

It’s not easy finding a rental when you have no job or documentable source of income, but Jesse manages to finesse an apartment from an intriguing property manager. Better yet, for Jesse, the attractive property manager lives next door in this stucco duplex, which really does exist at 325 Terrace St SE, Albuquerque, NM 87106.


Source: Google Street View

Source: Google Street View

Jesse earns his reputation as a stone-cold killer after a wild scene that takes place in the downtown Albuquerque home at 217 13th St NW, Albuquerque, NM 87102. But the episode’s real dramatic tension comes from a dirt-smudged and neglected child of meth-heads who startles Jesse. In the middle of the impending violence, Jesse shows his tender side by connecting with the kid — via a game of peekaboo.

This article was originally published by Laura Vecsey on Zillow Blog. See the original article here

Questions to Ask Real Estate Agents When Selling

The real estate agent’s role is to smooth the home sale process, from setting the price to closing the deal. Before you hire an agent, interview several to determine their suitability for your transaction. The agent should be a good match for your style, your neighborhood, and the buying population you are targeting.

Questions to ask Real Estate Agents When Selling

Once you have chosen an agent, they will help you set your home’s asking price. For that, it’s important to know how much comparable homes in the neighborhood have sold for. Your real estate agent will also advise you about improving your house for higher profits.

Find the Right Agent for You
Start by getting recommendations from friends and family. Ask if their agent was attentive, answered their questions, and pursued all leads. Next, peruse local listings and advertisements to see who’s selling nearby. Arrange interviews with three or four real estate agents. Some important questions to ask them:

  • What are your credentials? At the very least, the agent should have a state license. A higher level of reassurance comes from Realtors, who belong to the National Association of Realtors®, which requires ethics training and adherence to a Code of Ethics.
  • How many sales did you make last year? Choose someone with a strong history of success. This does not guarantee your home’s successful sale but heads you in the right direction.
  • Where do you usually work? Someone who sells in your neighborhood is likely to understand the target buyer and market your house appropriately.
  • Do you have a sales plan? The agent should be able to provide a written marketing plan, including where they will advertise the house and how they will help you prime your house for sale.
  • Are commissions negotiable? Usually, the real estate agent takes a 3 percent commission from the seller. Ask each agent you interview about willingness to reduce the price.
  • How often will you communicate? Your agent should update you just about every day.

Ask Your Agent How to Sell Your Home
Once you have chosen an agent, take advantage of their knowledge about houses and the market. Ask questions about your planned sale, such as: Is the home ready to be sold in its present condition, or are improvements absolutely necessary? How much have comparable homes in the neighborhood been selling for? Is now a good time to sell, or should I wait for the seasons — or the economy — to turn? What is the home’s current worth? What is the asking price that I should set? Once I put the house on the market, how long can I expect to wait to sell?

Question Your Agent About Home Improvements
Your real estate agent’s expertise will guide you to make the home repairs that bring the most bang for your buck. Ask the following:

  • Which upgrades and repairs are absolutely necessary, and which would not make a big difference in the house price?
  • Which upgrades are considered standard in your area’s housing market? For example, is gutting and renovating your bathrooms necessary?
  • Which home improvement jobs cost little but improve a home’s cachet?

Some experts say that a remodeled kitchen is always a draw, but ask your agent whether that’s the case in your neighborhood.

How Should You Stage?
Before showing your house, ask your real estate agent about how best to stage it. The agent will advise you aboutminimizing clutter, arranging furniture and infusing it with pleasing scents. Ask your agent what items you should get rid of, or hide, before potential buyers come to view your home.

Sell Your Home Successfully
Proper preparation for a home sale is essential. If you choose the right agent and ask the right questions, your home should sell quickly and smoothly, and for the right asking price.

This article was originally published on To see the original article, click here.

Why to Use a Realtor When Selling Your Home

Selling a house can be a complex process. A Realtor can help you at every stage, from setting a price to marketing the property to closing the sale.

Why Use a Realtor When Selling Your Home

Setting the Price
The selling process generally begins with a determination of a reasonable asking price. Your real estate agent or Realtor can give you up-to-date information on what is happening in your local marketplace, as well as the price, financing, terms and condition of competing properties. These are key factors in marketing your home and selling it at the best price. Often, your agent can recommend repairs or cosmetic work that will significantly enhance the salability of the property.

The next step is a marketing plan. Marketing exposes your property to the public as well as to other real estate agents through a Multiple Listing Service, other cooperative marketing networks, open houses for agents, and so on. In many markets, a substantial portion of real estate sales are cooperative sales; that is, a real estate agent other than yours brings in the buyer. The Realtor Code of Ethics requires Realtors to use these cooperative relationships when they benefit clients.

An agent will also know when, where and how to advertise — which medium, format and frequency will work best for your home and your market. Though advertising can be valuable, the notion that advertising sells real estate is a misconception. National Association of Realtors studies show that 82 percent of real estate sales are the result of agent contacts from previous clients, referrals, friends, family and personal contacts.

Providing Security
When a property is marketed with an agent’s help, you do not have to allow strangers into your home. Agents will generally prescreen and accompany qualified prospects through your property.

Your agent can help you objectively evaluate every buyer’s proposal without compromising your marketing position. This initial agreement is only the beginning of a process of appraisals, inspections and financing — a lot of possible pitfalls. Your agent can help you write a legally binding, win-win agreement that will be more likely to make it through the process.

Monitoring, Renegotiating and Closing
Between the initial sales agreement and the closing (or settlement), questions may arise. For example, there are unexpected repairs that require the buyer to obtain financing, or a cloud in the title is discovered. The required paperwork alone is overwhelming for most sellers. Your agent is the best person to objectively help you resolve these issues and move the transaction to closing.

Getting the Realtor Guarantee
All real estate licensees are not the same. Only real estate agents who are members of the National Association of Realtors are called Realtors. They proudly display the Realtor logo on their business card, website, and marketing. Realtors subscribe to a strict code of ethics and are expected to maintain a higher level of knowledge of the process of buying and selling real estate. Realtors are committed to treating all parties to a transaction honestly. An independent survey reports that almost 85 percent of home buyers would use the same Realtor again.

Getting Expert Assistance
Finally, consider the scale of your transaction. Selling your home is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make. Transactions today usually exceed $100,000. If you had a $100,000 income tax problem, would you attempt to solve it without the help of a CPA? If you had a $100,000 legal question, would you deal with it without the help of an attorney? Considering the relatively small cost of hiring a Realtor and the large potential risk of not hiring one, it’s smart to find a professional to sell your home.

This article was originally published by Ron Schmeadick on To see the original article, click here.