9 Tips to Get Your Security Deposit Back When You Move Out
Paying a security deposit may be a nuisance, but it’s a necessary evil. While many believe that they’ll never see that money again, there are ways to guarantee that you get it back. In fact, while there are slumlords out there, most property managers want to return your security deposit to you. So long as you follow your lease agreement, and our 9 tips outlined below, you should, without a doubt, receive every last penny of your security deposit back when moving out of your rental.
Read Your Lease
While this may seem like a no brainer, actually reading through and understanding your lease is probably the best advice we can give you. Take the time to read the whole lease and don’t neglect the fine print! The lease will outline your responsibilities as a tenant, and also include a clause on terminating. You must follow the requirements in this clause to the letter if you want to receive your full security deposit back.
Find out how much notice that you have to give your landlord when you intend to move out and pay close attention to any special requirements. Most require a 30-day notice, but some landlords might request a 60-day notice. Additionally, leases typically require you to clean the unit, return the keys, and fix any of the alternations that you made to the property – returning it to the original condition.
Look Around Upon Moving In
Before you move anything into your new place, walk around to examine the condition of the place. In most cases, your landlord will give you a document for you to record any damage that exists prior to you moving in. This is important so that you don’t get blamed for it when you move out. Using your phone and this document, take photos and notate any damage to the doors, walls, floors, cabinets, and check that all appliances are functioning properly.
Once you’ve completed your walk-through, send the photos to your landlord and keep copies of all of your communications. That way, you have ample evidence that backs up poor conditions when your lease is up.
Move in Carefully
When your moving all your furniture in for the first time, be extra careful. Practice extreme care as you are rearranging and assembling furniture later on as well. Bulky and awkwardly-shaped items can scratch up the floors, tear paint from the walls, and cause dents in the door jambs. Place felt pads on furniture legs to prevent them from scratching the floors as you’re moving things around. This is especially important for kitchen table chairs as they will frequently be moved in, out, and around.
For peace of mind, consider hiring professional movers. They are highly-trained and experienced in the proper way to handle your household items so that any possible damage to the property and your goods is greatly reduced. While your friends and family members may be helpful when you need to move, they are likely very inexperienced. This often leads to damage or personal injury, so why not leave the task to the professionals?
Document Your Upgrades
If you live in your apartment for quite some time, odds are that you are going to want to make some upgrades. Perhaps you want to swap out the showerhead to enjoy better water pressure or paint the walls a lovely warm shade. Obviously, before you make any upgrades you should consult your lease and ask your landlord for the approval. If you’re lucky, they may cover the costs – especially if it’s an upgrade that future tenants will benefit from and might let them raise the price of the rent.
Once your landlord approves the upgrade you want to make, document the improvements and take plenty of photos. This lets you show your landlord what you’ve done and ensures no errors are made that you’ll have to pay for.
Make Necessary Repairs
Oftentimes, your landlord will charge you more to fix something in your unit than it would cost for you to do it by yourself. Therefore, when moving out, you should only perform repairs that you can do cheaply and quickly. For instance, don’t fix that simply broke overtime and don’t improve your landlord’s property just to get your security deposit back.
Small and easy repairs that you should do before you move out include:
- Patch up holes. If you made any holes to hang shelves, pictures, or curtains, patch them up with some putty and a bit of paint.
- Paint the walls. If you painted any room a different color in the unit, paint it back to the color it was when you first moved in.
- Swap out batteries and light bulbs. If you have any burned out fixtures, replace the light bulbs. Also, check the batteries in the smoke or carbon monoxide detector and change them if necessary.
- Refresh the bathroom. Use some white paint or a bleach pen to tackle stains or marks that you may have caused in the bathroom.
- Restore the stove. If the pans below the burners have burn marks, replace them. This can be done for just a few dollars and it saves the time and effort of having to give them a deep clean.
Clean, Clean, Clean
Law requires that you leave your rental unit “broom clean” when you move out. While this term is highly subjective, it’s best to leave the unit as clean as possible – like it was you when you first moved in. If possible, do a deep clean after you’ve moved all of your stuff out. That way, you can catch all of the dust that collected underneath your couch and stains that accumulated inside of your kitchen cabinets.
Do a full, deep clean. Begin with dusting ceiling fans and finish by giving the floors a good mop and vacuum any carpeting. Spend most of your time cleaning in the kitchen and bathroom, as these are the areas that tend to get the dirtiest. Don’t forget all of the little things like cleaning inside of your stove and other appliances, vacuuming out the closets, dusting blinds, and cleaning the baseboards.
Pro Tip: If you lived with pets in your rental, sprinkle baking soda on the counters and floors. Let it sit before about an hour and then vacuum it up. This will help to absorb a large majority of the pet odor and make it less apparent when your landlord does their inspection.
Take Everything With You
A foolproof way to irritate your landlord is to leave some of your household goods behind. If you happen to leave a large item behind, they’ll likely have to hire someone to remove it. The cost of this will have to come out of your security deposit. Make sure that you do a final walk-through before you leave. Check closets, cabinets, drawers, and storage areas to ensure that you take absolutely everything with you.
Return Your Keys
This step is often missed by tenants and it will cost you. After you’ve done your final walk-through and verified that everything is out, contact your landlord and establish a time to drop off the keys. Make sure that you turn over everything you have – including any mailbox keys, gate keys, or garage door openers. Otherwise, your landlord will have to charge you to replace the key or opener that you keep.
Both landlord and tenant laws only defend your right to get your security deposit back if you ask for it. If you simply forget about it or let it go, you could never see that money again. In fact, that’s how many landlords get away with never returning security deposits.
In most cases, landlords have 30 days to give you a refund, though some states allow even less time. If you haven’t heard from your landlord in 30 days, don’t be afraid to reach out and follow up. Write a letter or email requesting your security deposit. If you still don’t hear back after several weeks, then you can go to your local court and file a civil suit.