Oregon Security Deposit Laws in 2024

Introduction to Oregon Security Deposit Laws

Oregon has specific laws that govern security deposits for residential rental properties. These laws are outlined in Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 90.300, which defines security deposits and outlines the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. 

The main purposes of security deposits in Oregon are:

  • To cover any damage to the rental property caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear.
  • To provide financial protection for the landlord in case a tenant breaks the lease agreement. 
  • Under ORS 90.300, landlords in Oregon have limits on how much they can charge for security deposits:
  • For an unfurnished unit, the deposit cannot exceed 1 month's rent.  
  • For a furnished unit, the deposit cannot exceed 2 month's rent.

Oregon law prohibits landlords from charging certain types of non-refundable fees at the beginning of a lease, including:

  • Move-in fees
  • Application fees
  • Pet fees (pet deposits are allowed but must be refundable)
  • Last month's rent in addition to a security deposit

The only payments a landlord can require prior to move-in are first month's rent, a refundable security deposit, and refundable pet deposits. This helps prevent landlords from imposing unfair non-refundable fees on tenants.

Landlord Requirements

Under Oregon law, landlords have specific requirements when it comes to security deposits:

Provide written statement for retaining deposit 

If a landlord retains any portion of a tenant's security deposit, they must provide the tenant with a written statement that lists the exact reasons for keeping the deposit within 31 days after the tenancy ends. This statement should include details on any damages or costs incurred.

Return deposit or statement within 31 days 

Within 31 days after a tenant moves out, the landlord must either return the full security deposit or provide the tenant with the written statement detailing deductions along with any remaining deposit funds.

Hold deposits in separate trust account 

Landlords in Oregon are required to hold security deposits in a separate trust account and not mix them with their own funds. The deposits remain the property of the tenant until potential legitimate deductions are made after move out.

Landlords who fail to follow these requirements for security deposits in Oregon can face penalties and legal action from tenants. It's important for landlords to understand and properly follow their obligations under ORS 90.300 and other state laws.

Tenant Rights

Oregon law provides several important rights to tenants when it comes to security deposits. These help protect renters from potential abuses or confusion when landlords collect deposits.

Deposit Limits

The maximum amount a landlord in Oregon can charge for a security deposit is equal to 1 month's rent. For furnished dwellings, landlords can charge up to 2 month's rent. Any deposit exceeding these limits is prohibited.

So if your monthly rent payment is $1000, your landlord can only collect a security deposit of $1000 (or $2000 if furnished). They cannot require first and last month's rent plus a full deposit.

Written Receipt 

Within 4 days of receiving a security deposit from a tenant, Oregon landlords must provide a written receipt. This receipt should detail the amount paid, date received, and a description of the funds (e.g. "security deposit").

Tenants should hold on to this receipt to have proof of paying the deposit, which can help in retrieving it later.

Initial Inspection

Before moving out, tenants in Oregon have a right to request an initial inspection of the rental unit. This allows you to identify potential issues or damages the landlord may deduct from your deposit.

It's a good idea to take notes, photographs, or video during this inspection to document the condition you are leaving the unit in. This creates helpful evidence in case the landlord tries to blame pre-existing damages on you later.

Having an initial inspection makes it harder for a landlord to falsely claim damages and keeps them honest in deducting only legitimate issues from your deposit.

Normal Wear and Tear

Under Oregon law, a landlord cannot deduct costs from a tenant's security deposit for normal wear and tear. Wear and tear refers to the expected decline in condition that occurs naturally over time from standard occupancy and use. It does not include damage caused by negligence, carelessness, accidents, or abuse.

Some examples of normal wear and tear that cannot be deducted from a security deposit include:

  • Faded paint, wallpaper, or carpeting
  • Minor carpet staining or spotting 
  • Scratches, scuffs, or nail holes in walls or woodwork
  • Faded window treatments or curtains
  • Stains/wear on bathroom fixtures
  • Worn kitchen cabinets or countertops
  • Stains on floors or windows from weather or age
  • Cracked window panes from natural settling
  • Loose hinges, knobs, tiles or fixtures due to age

In contrast, a landlord can deduct costs for damages beyond normal wear and tear, such as:

  • Large unsightly stains or burns on carpet 
  • Torn, ripped, or missing carpet 
  • Unapproved paint colors or wallpaper
  • Holes in walls larger than a nail
  • Broken tiles, mirrors, cabinets, or fixtures
  • Missing fixtures, knobs, tiles or parts 
  • Warped or gouged floors or cabinets
  • Broken windows or doors
  • Mildew or mold issues in bathroom  

As a tenant, being aware of this distinction can help avoid unfair deductions from your security deposit. Keeping your rental maintained and undamaged during your stay also protects your deposit refund.

Returning the Security Deposit 

When a tenant is planning to move out, they should provide their landlord with a forwarding address in writing where the security deposit should be returned. This could be a new home address, PO Box, or other mail drop location.

Under Oregon law, the landlord has 31 days after the tenant has moved out and delivered possession to return the security deposit in full or provide an itemized statement of any deductions along with the balance. 

If the landlord fails to return the deposit or provide the itemized deduction statement within 31 days, the tenant has the right to sue the landlord in small claims court for two times the amount of the security deposit. So if the security deposit was $1000, the tenant could sue for $2000.

The 31 day timeframe gives the landlord time to inspect the property, get any cost estimates for repairs, and draft the deduction list. But they must act within this window or risk owing double damages.

It's crucial for tenants to give proper notice before moving out and provide their forwarding address. Keep records of any communications, rental agreement, inspection reports, and move-out notice. These can help the tenant contest improper deductions or prove the landlord failed to meet the 31 day deadline if a dispute arises.

Move-Out Inspection

Tenants in Oregon have the right to request an initial inspection of the rental unit before moving out. This allows the tenant to identify any potential issues or damages that the landlord may deduct from the security deposit. The tenant also has a right to a final inspection after moving their belongings and cleaning, in order to document the condition of the unit when returning possession to the landlord. 

Conducting both an initial and a final move-out inspection can be extremely beneficial for tenants in avoiding improper security deposit deductions. The initial inspection gives the tenant a chance to repair any damages for which they are responsible, such as holes in walls or stains on carpeting. This prevents the landlord from claiming pre-existing damages were the tenant's fault. The final inspection provides evidence of the condition the tenant left the unit in. With dated photographic evidence or a signed inspection report, the tenant can contest any unreasonable or false claims a landlord may make regarding damages.

Move-out inspections give the tenant a chance to point out normal wear and tear versus damages. Landlords in Oregon are prohibited from deducting for normal wear and tear. An inspection report or photos can prove the difference between small nail holes and wall damage needing repair. They can also show that worn carpet or faded paint is from ordinary use rather than negligence. Having documentation makes it much easier for a tenant to get their full deposit back or dispute unfair deductions.

Contesting Deductions

If a tenant believes the landlord has made improper or unreasonable deductions from the security deposit, the tenant has the right to contest those deductions. The first step is to communicate in writing with the landlord, explaining why the deductions are being disputed and requesting a return of the disputed amount. 

Some reasons a tenant may contest deductions include:

  • Charges for normal wear and tear
  • Deductions for damages that existed prior to the tenant moving in 
  • Lack of photographic or written evidence of damages
  • Cleaning charges above and beyond returning the unit to the same level of cleanliness as at move-in
  • Charges to repaint walls or replace carpets after a reasonable period of use

The tenant should make sure to respond within 30 days of receiving the landlord's security deposit disposition letter, and to keep copies of all correspondence. If the landlord refuses to return the disputed portion of the deposit, the next step is to file a lawsuit in small claims court. 

In Oregon, a tenant can sue for up to two times the amount of the security deposit if the landlord wrongfully withholds any portion of it. The court will examine the evidence such as move-in and move-out inspection reports, photographs, receipts for repairs, and written communications between the tenant and landlord. 

If the judge agrees that any deductions were improper or unreasonable, the landlord may be ordered to return up to 2x the disputed amount. Having documentation is key for a tenant contesting security deposit deductions in court.

Pet Deposits

Landlords in Oregon are allowed to charge additional "pet deposits" or fees for tenants with pets. However, these pet deposits are still considered security deposits under Oregon law and must follow all the same rules and regulations. 

The total amount a landlord collects for a security deposit, including any pet deposit, cannot exceed 1 month's rent or 2 month's rent for a furnished dwelling. Pet deposits also must be held by the landlord in a separate trust account and are subject to the same return requirements as regular security deposits.

A landlord cannot keep any portion of a pet deposit that is not justified by damages caused by the pet. Normal wear and tear does not justify keeping a pet deposit. Tenants have the right to contest improper deductions from a pet deposit in the same manner as a regular security deposit.

In summary, while Oregon landlords can charge extra pet deposits, these deposits are in reality just part of the total security deposit. Pet deposits are not legally distinct from regular security deposits in Oregon and must follow all the same limits, handling, and return requirements.

Tenant Obligations

As a tenant renting in Oregon, you have certain obligations you must uphold regarding the rental property and security deposit. Failure to meet these obligations could result in deductions from your deposit.

Comply with Lease Terms  

It's important to fully comply with the terms in your rental agreement during your tenancy. This includes paying rent on time, not disturbing neighbors, following rules about guests, pets, parking, etc. Violating material lease clauses gives the landlord grounds to keep part or all of your security deposit.

Provide Proper Notice Before Moving Out

Oregon law requires tenants to provide proper written notice before moving out, generally 30 days for a month-to-month tenancy. Make sure to check your rental agreement. Some require more than 30 days. If you move out earlier than the date in your notice, the landlord can deduct a fee equal to 1.5x the daily rent for each day short of the required notice.

Leave the Property Clean and Undamaged

When you move out, you are responsible for leaving the rental unit in the same condition as when you moved in, except for normal wear and tear. This means removing all possessions, cleaning the property thoroughly, and repairing any damages beyond regular use of the premises. Document the condition with photos and video. Leaving the property damaged or unclean allows the landlord to make deductions from your security deposit for cleaning and repairs.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much can a landlord charge for a security deposit in Oregon?

In Oregon, landlords are limited to charging a security deposit equal to 1 month's rent for an unfurnished dwelling, or up to 2 month's rent for a furnished dwelling.  

When does a landlord have to return a security deposit in Oregon?

Oregon law requires landlords to return a tenant's security deposit or provide a written statement of deductions within 31 days after the tenancy has ended and the tenant has delivered possession of the premises back to the landlord.

Can a landlord keep my security deposit for normal wear and tear in Oregon?

No, under Oregon law normal wear and tear is not a valid justification for a landlord to retain any part of a tenant's security deposit. Landlords can only make deductions from security deposits to repair damages that exceed normal wear and tear.

What can a landlord deduct from a security deposit in Oregon?

Landlords in Oregon can only make deductions from a security deposit to cover tangible damages caused by the tenant beyond normal wear and tear. This could include things like unpaid rent, repairs for actual damages like stains, holes or broken fixtures, and any charges specified in the lease agreement such as professional carpet cleaning.

Does Oregon require security deposits to be held in a separate account?

Yes, Oregon law requires landlords to hold security deposits in a separate trust account and not mix them with the landlord's own funds. 

How do I get my security deposit back from my landlord in Oregon?

To maximize your chances of getting your full security deposit returned, conduct an initial inspection when you move in, take photos/video, give proper notice before moving out, do a final inspection with your landlord, provide a forwarding address, leave the unit clean and undamaged, and follow up if your deposit is not returned within 31 days.

Can a landlord charge a pet deposit in Oregon? 

Yes, Oregon allows landlords to collect "pet deposits" in addition to standard security deposits. However, pet deposits are subject to the same regulations and limits as regular security deposits.

What are my rights as a tenant regarding security deposits in Oregon?

Tenants in Oregon have the right to limits on security deposit amounts, written receipts, initial/final inspections, return of deposits within 31 days, an itemized damages statement, and the ability to recover up to 2x the deposit if it is wrongfully withheld.

How long does a landlord have to return a security deposit after moving out in Oregon?

Oregon landlords have 31 days after the tenancy has ended and the tenant has returned possession of the unit to either return the full security deposit or provide a written statement documenting any deductions.

What happens if a landlord does not return a security deposit in Oregon?

If a landlord fails to return a security deposit or provide a required statement within 31 days, the tenant can sue to recover up to twice the amount of the security deposit as penalty damages under Oregon law.

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