When you rent an apartment or home, you are usually required to pay a security deposit up front. Ideally, you get this deposit back when you move out of your rental. However, a lot can happen between the move-in and move-out date. Depending on the condition you leave the home in, you may or may not see that money again.
The security deposit can often feel like a hefty sum and you certainly want to see it back in your pocket. Here are 10 tips on what you can do to get your security deposit back.
Complete a Move-in Rental Inspection Checklist
Before you move a box in the door, go through the rental (and the yard, if applicable) and thoroughly document any damages that are already present. Your landlord should have a rental inspection sheet that you can fill out. Include visual documentation (images and videos) so that you have clear evidence. Complete a copy of the checklist for both you and your landlord and make sure they are signed and dated.
Make Sure You Understand the Rental Agreement
From the very start, make sure that you are familiar with and understand the lease agreement. Not adhering to this agreement is sure to cost you in the long run. Normal wear and tear should not cause you to lose your deposit but other significant damages likely will. Don’t sign a lease before knowing the conditions.
Make sure to ask these questions:
- What is considered normal wear and tear?
- Who is responsible for maintenance?
- What are the move-out expectations?
Find Solutions Other Than Nails to Hang Decor
Not all rental agreements have the same conditions. Some allow you to use nails to hang décor on your walls, others do not permit it. Even if they do, you will save yourself the hassle of having to fill holes or lose some of your deposit in the end if you choose to find other solutions. Command hooks and velcro command strips are excellent alternatives and you can find different sizes that hold varying weights. Learn more about decorating your rental without breaking the rules.
Keep Your Rental Clean
Tenants who neglect to care for their rentals often forfeit their deposits as a result. Keeping your home clean while you live there will help keep it in the best condition possible. Clean up and remove spills immediately. Keep your carpets as clean as possible and try to keep them from getting stained. Often, damaged flooring can be a reason why your deposit is not returned.
Contact Your Landlord for Maintenance Needs Immediately
When you have a maintenance need that the landlord is required to handle, contact them immediately. Do not let the problem go on and grow worse. Contact your landlord via email or another way that you can carefully document in case you will need that information later.
When Moving, Remove All Your Things
Once it’s time to move, make sure ALL of your things are removed from the home. Don’t risk losing any of your deposit because your landlord ends up having to dispose of your things.
Give Your Rental a Good Move-out Cleaning
When it’s time to move, don’t leave without doing a good cleaning to leave the home in its best shape. Make sure you have a good understanding of the expectations the landlord has for how clean the rental should be. Many landlords provide a move-out cleaning checklist.
Here are some tasks you will likely need to include in your move-out cleaning:
- Deep clean the fridge and oven
- Vacuum floors and wash hard floors
- Wipe out your cabinets
- Wipe down counters
- Remove scuff marks from walls and trim with a magic eraser
- Clean dirty windows
- Clean and sanitize the bathrooms
- Wipe down doors
Make any Required Small Maintenance Repairs
While major repairs are usually up to your landlord, there are possibly small repairs you need to do before you go. Make sure to refer back to your lease so that you don’t miss anything. Here are a few examples of what small maintenance tasks may be included:
- Replace light bulbs
- Fill in holes made by nails, etc.
- If your landlord allowed you to paint your walls under the condition that you would paint them with the original color when you left, make sure you do this.
- Tighten any loose hardware on cabinets and doors
Complete a Move-out Inspection Checklist
Once you have everything moved out and in tip-top shape, go through again and fill out a move-out inspection checklist. Again, document any damages with photos or videos. Prepare signed and dated documentation for both you and your landlord.
Leave the Keys and Your Forwarding Address
Finally, leave all the keys to the house (as well as any garage door openers) with your landlord or the property manager. When you drop off the keys, make sure you also leave your forwarding address so that they can send your deposit to you.