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A lease provision requiring the deposit of money as security for performance of all the conditions in the lease or to pay for damages caused by the tenant is valid and enforceable. Courts have said that the relationship of debtor and creditor is created and the landlord is free to mingle the funds of the deposit with his own. If at all possible, the tenant should try to insert a clause in the lease stating that the landlord is to keep the security deposit separate from his other funds and also pay a fixed rate of interest on the deposit because otherwise the landlord is not obligated to do this. Ordinarily the title to the money deposit remains in the tenant, subject to the terms and conditions of the lease. The landlord does have a right to make deductions from the deposit for necessary cleaning and for actual damages to the apartment. Any portion of a deposit that is non-refundable must be identified in the lease.
On July 1, 1999 a law went into effect in Wyoming that contains provisions that set forth when deposits must be returned. The provisions of the law in regard to deposits are as follows:
W. S. 1-21-1208. Deductions from deposit; written itemization; time limits; failure to give notice; recovery by renter; utilities deposit; penalty.
(a) Upon termination of the rental agreement, property or money held as a deposit may be applied by the owner or his agent to the payment of accrued rent, damages to the residential rental unit beyond reasonable wear and tear, the cost to clean the unit to the condition at the beginning of the rental agreement and to other costs provided by any contract. The balance of any deposit and prepaid rent and a written itemization of any deductions from the deposit together with reasons therefore, shall be delivered or mailed without interest to the renter within thirty (30) days after termination of the rental agreement or within fifteen (15) days after receipt of the renter's new mailing address, whichever is later. If there is damage to the residential rental unit, this period shall be extended by thirty (30) days. The renter shall within thirty (30) days of termination of the rental agreement, notify the owner or designated agent of the location where payment and notice may be made or mailed.
(b) After termination of the rental agreement, property or money held and separately identified as a utilities deposit shall be refunded by the owner to the renter within ten (10) days of a satisfactory showing that all utility charges incurred by the renter have been paid. Absent such showing within forty-five (45) days of termination, the owner shall within fifteen (15) days thereafter, apply the utilities deposit to the outstanding utility debt incurred by the renter. Any refund due to the renter shall be paid within seven (7) days after the utility deposit has been applied to the renter's utility debt, or within fifteen (15) days after receipt of the renter's new mailing address, whichever is later.
(c) If the owner of a residential rental unit or his agent unreasonably fails to comply with subsection (a) or of this section, the renter may recover the full deposit and court costs. In an action by a renter pursuant to this section, if the owner is the prevailing party and the court finds the renter acted unreasonably in bringing the action, the owner may by awarded court costs in addition to any other relief available.
WARNING: The above provisions of Wyoming state law may be modified by the agreement of the landlord and the tenant (normally indicated by their signatures on a lease with different terms than the above).
If your landlord only returns a portion of your deposit and you do not agree with her deductions, do not cash her check if you want to sue her. By cashing the check, it could be implied that you have agreed to the landlord's deductions and have relinquished all of your rights concerning contesting them. Contact the Students' Attorney when this problem arises.