Tip #255: Say What You Mean
Most landlords go out of their way to make lease agreements and house rules that are clear and concise, and leave no room for misinterpretation. But, if you using the term “nonrefundable” with the word “deposit”, you may be asking for problems.
That’s because “deposit” implies that the funds are to be returned. When you say “nonrefundable deposit”, your tenant hears, “I’m going to hold on to your money, and then not give it back to you.”
This is particularly confusing for tenants when you mention both fees and deposits in the same conversation, or in the lease agreement.
Rather than using “nonrefundable” anything, consider simply calling the charge a “fee” — application fee, late fee, early termination fee, pet fee. That can save you loads of time and trouble debating the language with disgruntled tenants.
For good measure, check your local laws for any restrictions on fees — or deposits — that can be charged to tenants.
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