Most states impose strict rules on how landlords can collect and use deposits and how they must return them when the tenant moves out. If a landlord fails to comply with state security deposit law, the tenant should write the landlord a demand letter asking for the return of the deposit.
Before writing the landlord a security deposit demand letter, research your state security deposit laws, including:
Check to make sure that the landlord has your forwarding address and that there are no other reasons why you have not yet received your deposit back. (This is an important step: in some states, failure to supply a forwarding address relieves the landlord of having to return the deposit.) Verify the landlord's mailing address (or that of the manager or management company, whomever is relevant), in case you need to send a demand letter.
Make sure you understand your Lease or Rental Contract.
Identify yourself in your demand letter, the address of your rental unit, how long you lived there, the date you moved out, and anything else relevant, such as the facts that you gave the proper amount of notice, were paid up in rent, and left the rental in good condition. Include the following information:
Use certified mail or a delivery service that will give you a receipt establishing delivery. Keep a copy of your letter and the delivery receipt. You'll need these if you end up in small claims court.
Learn more about How to Handle Landlord and Tenant Disputes.