Idaho Security Deposit Laws in 2024

Idaho Security Deposit Statutes

Idaho has specific statutes that govern security deposits for residential rental properties. These laws are contained in Title 6, Chapter 3 of the Idaho Code. 

The purpose of a security deposit under Idaho law is to cover any costs incurred by the landlord due to a tenant's failure to comply with lease terms, excluding unpaid rent. Landlords cannot require security deposits for the purpose of collecting rent payments.

Idaho statutes require landlords to refund security deposits within a certain timeframe when the tenancy ends. If there is no written rental agreement specifying a refund period, the default is 21 days. If there is a written agreement, the refund must be made within 30 days after the tenancy terminates and the tenant vacates the property. 

The Idaho security deposit laws aim to protect both landlords and tenants. By clearly laying out the rules and procedures around security deposits, statutes provide guidance on this common aspect of renting property. Renters should understand their rights under Idaho Code Title 6 Chapter 3.

Returning the Security Deposit

According to Idaho state law, landlords have specific requirements for returning a tenant's security deposit at the end of the lease. 

If there is no written rental agreement specifying a timeframe, the landlord must refund the full security deposit within 21 days after the tenant has vacated the property. This 21 day timeframe ensures renters receive their deposits back in a timely manner.

If there is a written rental agreement, it may stipulate a longer timeframe of up to 30 days for the landlord to return the deposit after the tenant has moved out. So with a formal lease, the refund may not be due until the 30 day mark.

It's important to note that if the rental property changes hands or is sold to a new owner, they take on responsibility for refunding the previous tenant's security deposit within the 21 or 30 day timeline. The security deposit transfers to the new owner. The original tenant still has the right to receive their full deposit back according to Idaho law, regardless of the property sale.

Separate Account Requirement

Idaho statute requires that any security deposits for rental premises that are managed by a third party must be deposited by the landlord or third-party manager into a separate, federally insured interest-bearing account. This separate account must be in a bank or savings and loan institution located in Idaho. 

The purpose of this requirement is to protect renters' security deposit funds when a third-party manager is involved. It prevents the co-mingling of deposit funds with the property management company's operating funds or the landlord's personal accounts. The separate account ensures the deposits remain available for refund to tenants.

Having the security deposits in a federally insured account also protects renters' money in the rare case that the bank or institution fails. The deposits would be covered and protected under FDIC insurance just like a personal bank account.

Overall, the separate account rule provides an important safeguard for renters' security deposits when a third-party property management company is used by the landlord to handle deposits and refunds. It keeps the deposits separate from other funds and insured in case of issues.

Advice for Renters on Security Deposits  

If you believe your landlord has wrongfully withheld all or part of your security deposit in Idaho, here are the steps to take:

Step 1: Write a letter to your landlord requesting return of the full deposit

Write a formal letter to your landlord stating that you have not received your full security deposit refund within the required 21 or 30 days under Idaho law. Politely request that the full deposit be returned immediately. Include your former address at the rental unit and your new address for the refund to be sent. 

Keep a copy of this letter for your records. Send the letter via certified mail with return receipt so you have proof it was received.

Step 2: Allow your landlord time to respond  

Give your landlord a reasonable window of time to respond to your letter and return the deposit—usually 10-14 days. Under Idaho law, they should return your full deposit within 21 or 30 days after you moved out. 

If they fail to do so after receiving your letter, you may then proceed to the next step.

Step 3: File a small claims court case against your landlord  

If your landlord still does not return the amount you are owed, you can sue them in Idaho small claims court. The maximum you can sue for is $5,000 in small claims court. 

To begin the process, go to the courthouse in the county where the rental property is located. Tell the clerk you need to file a small claims case against your landlord for failing to refund your security deposit. They will provide the paperwork to complete and file.

Step 4: Attend your small claims court trial  

Once you've filed the case, a trial date will be set. Make sure to gather all your evidence and documentation, including your lease, photos/videos of the unit at move-in and move-out, the letter you sent, and any communication with your landlord. 

Show up early on your court date dressed neatly. When it's your turn, calmly present your case to the judge. The judge will make a decision at the end of the trial.

Step 5: Collect if you win your case

If the judge rules in your favor, your landlord will be ordered to pay the amount owed. Immediately ask the court clerk for instructions on how to collect the judgment if your landlord does not pay voluntarily. You may need to take additional legal steps to force payment.

Important Things to Know About Deposits

When renting in Idaho, there are some key things tenants should know regarding security deposits:

Normal wear and tear is not deductible from the deposit

Landlords cannot deduct costs from the security deposit for normal usage of the unit and minor damage that occurs naturally over time. This includes minor carpet stains, small scuffs on walls, faded paint or wallpaper, etc. The tenant is not responsible for restoring the unit to brand new condition.

The landlord must provide an itemized deduction statement

If retaining any portion of the security deposit, the landlord must provide the tenant with a written statement explaining exactly what the deductions are for. This prevents landlords from arbitrarily keeping the deposit without justification.

The tenant should document the condition at move-in and move-out

To protect their deposit, the renter should take dated photos and video when first moving in and again when vacating. This creates a record that can counter any false claims of damages from the landlord. The tenant should also do a walkthrough inspection with the landlord and have any pre-existing issues noted in writing.

Rules on Deductions From Deposit

Landlords in Idaho can only deduct from the security deposit for damages beyond normal wear and tear. They cannot deduct for routine cleaning, painting, or other standard maintenance between tenants.

Under Idaho law, the landlord must provide the tenant with an itemized deduction statement showing any amounts withheld from the deposit. This statement should list the specific damages or repairs that justify the deductions, along with associated costs. 

For example, if the carpet was damaged beyond normal wear and tear, the statement would need to specify the type of damage, provide photos, include a copy of the bill for carpet replacement, etc. 

Normal wear and tear is not a valid justification for deposit deductions. Wear and tear includes minor scuffs on the wall, worn carpeting, sticky doors, etc caused by ordinary habitation over time. The unit does not have to be returned in pristine, brand new condition.

If the landlord fails to provide an itemized deduction statement, the tenant can recover up to 3 times the amount wrongfully withheld. It's the landlord's responsibility to justify any deposit amounts retained by documenting damages.

Rules If No Refund Notice Given

If the landlord fails to provide proper written notice of deductions and return of the deposit within the 21 or 30 day timeline, the tenant has the right to sue the landlord for up to 3 times the amount of the security deposit under Idaho law. 

Specifically, Idaho Code Section 6-320 states that if the landlord fails to provide the tenant with the required written notice of deductions and refund within 21 days, the landlord forfeits the right to withhold any portion of the security deposit.

If the tenant can show the landlord did not provide this required notice, the court will award the tenant up to 3 times the amount of the security deposit in damages. 

The written notice must list all deductions from the deposit for damages, cleaning, or other charges. It must also include a refund of any remaining deposit balance within the required timeline.

If the landlord does not provide this notice, the tenant should send a formal letter requesting return of the full deposit immediately. If the landlord still does not comply, the tenant can file a small claims court case for recovery under Idaho's statutes.

With proper documentation showing the lack of written notice, the judge will likely award the tenant up to treble (3x) damages, court costs, and attorney fees related to the unreturned deposit.

If a landlord in Idaho fails to return the security deposit or provide an itemized statement of deductions within the required timeframe, the tenant has the right to take legal action. The most common way to do this is by filing a lawsuit against the landlord in small claims court.

Small claims court is designed for cases involving relatively small amounts of money, and does not require hiring lawyers. In Idaho, small claims courts can hear cases up to $5,000. To file a case, the tenant will need to fill out a small claims complaint form, pay a filing fee (usually around $30-80), and provide documentation such as the lease agreement, receipts, photos, and any written communication about the deposit. 

The tenant should outline the facts of the situation, including the amount of deposit paid, lack of proper refund or statement within the timeframe, and request the court award the full deposit amount plus any additional damages allowed by law. Idaho law allows for up to 3 times the amount wrongfully withheld if the landlord did not provide proper notice. 

Once submitted, the court will schedule a hearing before a magistrate judge where both parties can present evidence and testimony related to the security deposit dispute. The judge will then make a legally binding decision on whether the tenant is owed the deposit or not, and can order the landlord to pay damages. Going through small claims court allows tenants to enforce their rights without needing to hire a lawyer.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the security deposit laws in Idaho?

Idaho's security deposit laws are outlined in Title 6, Chapter 3 of the Idaho Code. Some key provisions include:

  • The maximum security deposit a landlord can charge is equal to 1 month's rent.  
  • Landlords must refund deposits within 21 days after the tenant moves out if no rental agreement exists. If there is a rental agreement, refunds must occur within 30 days after move out.
  • Security deposits must be held in a separate, federally insured account if there is a third party property manager.  
  • Normal wear and tear is not deductible from the security deposit. Only damages beyond normal usage can be deducted.

What is normal wear and tear in Idaho?

Normal wear and tear refers to the expected decline in condition that occurs naturally through standard usage and aging. Things like minor scuffs on the wall, worn carpet, and faded paint are considered normal wear and tear in Idaho. Landlords cannot deduct for normal wear and tear when refunding the security deposit.

What are renters rights in Idaho?

Renters in Idaho have the right to receive a full refund of their security deposit within 21-30 days after moving out, depending on whether a rental agreement exists. Renters also have the right to sue landlords in small claims court if the deposit is wrongfully withheld. Normal wear and tear is not deductible, and landlords must provide an itemized deduction statement if any amount is withheld.

Can a landlord charge for painting in Idaho?

A landlord can only charge for repainting in Idaho if the walls have damages beyond normal wear and tear. Minor scuffs or faded paint due to natural aging do not allow the landlord to deduct for repainting. However, large holes in the wall or significant stains/damage could justify withholding for painting costs. The tenant has a right to see the itemized deduction statement.

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