“Will I lose my security deposit if I leave the apartment before the end of the lease agreement?”
By Michael Barley, General manager, Four Squares
Any tenant has the right to terminate a lease agreement; the civil code requires 3 months notice, but most lease agreements contain a clause requiring one-month’s notice. If you have notified the landlord in writing, he has to return you the security deposit in full within a fixed period (in most contracts this is 10 banking days from the date of termination or expiry of the contract), provided that no damage has been done to the property. When you leave the property and hand back the keys it is important that you complete an Act of Transfer, which states that the property is in good order and the landlord has no claims for damage.
You should inspect the property, together with the landlord, before vacating it. If opinions differ you may want to hold on to the property keys until you can speak with a real estate professional. Russian law allows for normal wear and tear in an apartment and a real estate consultant can provide valuable advice. At this stage, you may want to negotiate a settlement. If the landlord still refuses to sign the Act of Transfer, and keeps your security deposit, your only recourse is to take him to court. This takes time and money, and may not justify the effort. If the court rules in your favour it may still be difficult to enforce the courts ruling. This is your decision.
A new trend has emerged over the last twelve months, whereby landlords insist on inserting a penalty clause in the contract, stating that the tenant shall forfeit the security deposit if he/she terminates the lease early. Our advice is not to accept such a clause.
Finally, some contracts contain a clause that the tenant has the right to use the security deposit in lieu of the last month of rental payment. Although this goes against the very idea of a security deposit (the security deposit is to pay for damage made by the tenant after he/she has vacated the property), you should try to insert this into your lease agreement. It is the best protection possible.