A tenant can only be held liable for any damage that is caused during the course of the tenancy if not pre-existing (marked by notation in your lease, or photos upon move-in). If you cause damage you must pay reasonable cost to rectify the damage. I feel comfortable saying that as a rule, landlords are not typically piling trash in the house or breaking things to get your deposit. Logically, they'd still have to have the trash removed and fix any damages, even if they use your deposit, so there is not a whole lot to gain by doing that. Landlords tend to not want their properties damaged; they want the unit re-rented. Typically, compared to the monthly value of the unit, your deposit is small in comparison. I have heard people argue this type of thing in court and they inevitably lose.
Landlords, however, cannot act arbitrarily in keeping your deposit. This just means they must be reasonable in what they keep, if anything. If there is a hole or two from nails, they cannot charge to re-paint. However, if you trash the walls or if you paint a wall hot pink, they can. If a neignbor kid breaks the window, you'd need to notify the landlord before the day you move out, and take actions to mitigate the damage (ie. speak to the parents of the kid, file a police report, or whatever else supports you landlord in getting it paid for by a third-party)."Reasonable" generally means that unless you caused damage to the apartment and you abide(d) by the terms of your rental agreement/lease, your landlord must refund your deposit along with interest from the day you moved in.
Keep in mind, if you have a contract, that instrument will direct the terms of what you must do to ensure your deposit is returned. If you don't have a writing, local housing laws will dictate the terms of a tenancy-at-will. With these, the same rules apply to your deposit, except there are not special conditions except those set by the law, and you can move anytime with 30 days notice from the last paid rent. Otherwise, your rental term will determine when you can leave with no loss of deposit or other financial damages.
So long as you proceed both during tenancy and upon departure, in keeping with your agreement (which is controlling so long as it is in keeping with the laws), you are entitled to a full refund - usually in at maximum of 30 days, or earlier if your lease/agreement sets it out as such. Many landlords will return the deposit after the move-out walk through if you've completed the entire term of your lease and owe no back rent or late fees. Walkthrough is integral to getting your deposit back; be sure to take photos.
If you do have a lease and regardless, you leave early, there will be an early abandonment/termination fee - even with prior notice. The fee for this will usually be either a lump sum, or the amount due under the lease had you stayed; if you owe early termination fees your deposit can be kept to help fulfill this amount potentially due. If you have a pet, there may be a non-refundable pet deposit; some leases have a non-refundable cleaning fee regardless of pets; some require you leave the apartment broom-swept and generally clean; some leases charge storage or trash removal for anything left behind. No matter what happens, when your tenancy ends, you should walk through the apartment with your landlord, whereby he he goes through it with you and afterward he signs a statement that you walked through together and there were either no damages-or if there are, that they're determined and agreed to at that time. If there is one that you disagree on, mark it as such and try to negotiate how much you'll be charged for it, or if you can fix it yourself. If you cannot agree, he can keep the cost of fixing it, and then your only recourse is to sue to have it returned.
If your landlord keeps any portion of your deposit, he must send an itemized record of what what kept and why, and the costs for each damage individually itemized. With that, he must return any reminder.
here are things that a landlord can never do. Your deposit cannot be kept "unreasonably". It would be unreasonable to withhold any portion of your deposit if you've not damaged anything and owe no financial reparations. It would be unreasonable if you owe no money.
There are things that a landlord can never do so as not to keep your deposit "unreasonably". It would be unreasonable to withhold any portion of your deposit if you've not damaged anything and owe no financial reparations. It would be unreasonable if you owe no money on the lease. A landlord cannot use your deposit to refresh the apartment or for normal wear and tear that occurs under normal use and care. So, for example, if you live there for 5 years you cannot be charged for carpet or paint because it would've been worn with normal careful use - whereas, if those items are in bad shape and you moved in only only one year prior (assuming both were new or in great condition), well then your deposit could be used for those damages.
In some jurisdictions, if you can prove it (or any portion of it) was kept intentionally wrongfully (even if they just couldn't afford it) you can get treble damages (3x what is owed). But, you must show that you ou were due the money back and notice either wasn't given to keep it, or it misrepresented the damages - either way, that your money was not returned. The notice to keep any portion must come within the timeframe set out by agreement or housing law in your area.