Hm thanks for your response. I may have found the answer to my own question. I am copying from an exchange from the Office of the Tenant Advocate to see what you all think.
You have asked this office whether a landlord may stipulate a $400 “apartment preparation fee” to be deducted from your security deposit. The short answer is that although he can pre-establish an “apartment preparation fee” as a fee charged to all tenants (provided this doesn’t violate rent control laws), he cannot deduct this from the security deposit. The security deposit is used for payment of actual damages, and therefore could not be determined by a pre-established amount.
D.C. law requires landlords to return the entire security deposit (plus interest if you have lived there for 12 months or more) when you move out, unless there are damages in the apartment beyond normal wear and tear or your lease agreement states other terms and conditions for return of the deposit. The money is not the landlord’s; it is yours, and the landlord is supposed to hold it in a separate escrow account. The law regarding security deposits may be found in the D.C. Municipal Regulations, Title 14, Chapter 3(“Landlord and Tenant”), Sections 309 (“Repayment of Security Deposits to Tenants”) and 310 (“Return of Security Deposit: Inspection of Premises.”) These regulations may be found at your nearest library or on-line at the D.C. Government website.
Within 45 days after the termination of your tenancy, your landlord must either return your security deposit plus interest or notify you in writing that he or she plans to keep all or part of your security deposit. Within 30 days of the notice that your landlord plans to keep part or all of your security deposit, your landlord must return the balance plus interest and send you an itemized list of all repairs or other uses of the money not returned to you. Failure by the landlord to comply with these requirements is evidence that you are entitled to a full return, including interest if applicable, of your security deposit, and treble damages in the case of a landlord’s bad faith refusal to return your security deposit (See 14 DCMR 309).
When there is a dispute over the amount of your security deposit that was withheld, you may want to consider taking your landlord to Small Claims Court. This procedure is simple and informal and some landlords will return your deposit when faced with a summons to appear in Small Claims Court. For assistance in filing your Small Claims action against your landlord, you should contact the Small Claims Resource Center, located at 510 4th Street, NW, Court Building B, Room 102. Their staff of volunteer attorneys provides free legal information to unrepresented plaintiffs who have disputes in the Small Claims Branch. They can be reached by phone at (202)879-1120.”