Probably the biggest concern of renters when moving out of an apartment is if they will get their security deposit back. You pay your security deposit when you move in and the amount is typically the first (and last) month’s rent, along with any other charges, such as an application fee, credit check, and extra deposit if you have a pet. The purpose of the deposit is to hold the money in case it needs to be used to make any repairs to the unit after a tenant has vacated.
Getting your security deposit back shouldn’t be an issue if you follow the language in your lease and have done your best to be a responsible tenant and keep the apartment in good shape while you lived there. However, some landlords can be extremely picky or downright dishonest and explore every angle to avoid returning your security deposit.
Here are some tips to increase the odds that you’ll be paid back:
- Read the terms of your lease. Your lease should spell out the expectations for moving out, including giving notice, cleaning, returning keys, etc. Follow them to the letter.
- Clean. Clean. Clean. That means everything, including the nooks and crannies of appliances and the bathrooms. If you need to, patch any holes in the walls from hanging pictures. Don’t assume that the maintenance crew will fix these when renovating the apartment. Little oversights can ding your deposit.
- Refer to your copy of your move-in checklist. If your property manager used a checklist when you moved in, you should have a copy of it. Use this as your punch list when cleaning and doing minor repairs. Normal wear and tear is expected and doesn’t count against your deposit. However, major damage, especially from pets, will cost you. If possible, accompany the apartment manager when they do the final walk-through.
- Remove EVERYTHING. If you aren’t taking something with you to your next apartment, dispose of it. Sell it, donate it, re-gift it, or throw it away. What you do NOT want to do is overload all the dumpsters in the complex on moving day. Not only will you piss off other residents but you can expect the landlord to deduct the cost of large-item disposal from your security deposit.
When you return your keys, make sure to leave your forwarding address with your landlord, so they can mail back your security deposit. When you leave, assume positive intent that you will get your money back. However, if there are issues with the property management company and they string you along or refuse to return your deposit. make sure you have all of your documentation and consult an attorney. You can attempt to recoup your deposit through small claims court.
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