The only way your landlord can keep all or part of your security deposit, is if the landlord has provided an accounting to you showing for what purpose the security deposit was used. The accounting is for actual damages you, the tenant, caused to the premises during your lease.
If you do receive an accounting, you will want to review the damages and charges on the accounting sheet. The landlord cannot charge you for normal wear and tear. Damages are determined on a case-by-case basis; however, if you think the damages you are being charged for are ordinary wear and tear it may be worth pursuing a small claims action to recover any portion of your security deposit being retained for ordinary wear and tear.
North Carolina law requires that a landlord provide to a former tenant an accounting within thirty (30) days of the tenant vacating. Moreover, the landlord must refund any remaining balance of the security deposit to the tenant. The accounting the landlord provides is for damages to the premises and the actual cost to fix those damages. If the full amount is not able to be determined with thirty (30) days, the landlord still must provide you an interim accounting within the thirty (30) day period. The landlord then has an additional thirty (30) days to provide you a final accounting.
If the landlord fails to provide you any accounting within thirty (30) days the landlord has lost their right to keep any portion of your security deposit. At this point, you would want to notify your landlord of their failure to provide an accounting, and demand a return of your security deposit. If the landlord still fails to return your security deposit, you can file a small claims action to collect your security deposit (if the deposit is under $10,000.00).
If your landlord is refusing to provide you with an accounting or security deposit refund, please feel free to contact Kreger Brodish to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.