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10 Ways To Make Sure You Get Your Security Deposit Back

Nothing eases the pains of moving like a fully refunded security deposit. Make sure you get your cash back with these expert tips.

Getting your security deposit back after you move may feel like an impossible feat, but it isn’t. Remember that your security deposit is essentially your money, so not all hope is lost when it’s time to move out. It’s the landlord’s obligation to return the deposit at the end of the lease.

Here’s some expert advice for making sure your security deposit money goes back into your wallet — where it belongs.

Start Planning When You Move In Take precautions when you move in to save time (and money) when you move out. To avoid getting charged for damage, use removable poster putty or removable hooks to hang things, and use felt pads to protect wood floors from scratches.

Stay Organized You know all of those rental-related documents you received when you moved in? Make sure they get read thoroughly and keep all of them in one place. Research the proper procedures for ending your rental agreement and comply with them.

Document Everything Unfortunately, “fair wear and tear” is subjective. Some landlords stretch this phrase to the limit. Photograph everything in the rental property to serve as proof of the property’s condition.

While photo documentation is great, sometimes it’s not enough. Take a video walkthrough of the unit when you first move in and again when you move out.

If the property manager tries to keep your deposit, your video will serve as proof that you kept the rental in quality condition. It makes it very hard for them to argue with you. It can help save a few hundred dollars, and it only takes a few minutes.

Further, keep a record of each time you contacted your property manager to report maintenance issues. And whenever reporting maintenance requests, do so via email or through a reporting system that sends you a confirmation. This serves as proof for your record keeping.

Contact Your Landlord Confirm how far in advance you need to alert your landlord about your move-out date. While your rental agreement may already note this, a quick conversation serves as both a helpful confirmation and a courtesy to your landlord.

Clean Thoroughly In addition to the standard vacuuming and dusting, plan to do a serious deep clean if you want all of your deposit money back. This means behind and beneath appliances, plus details like light switches, door frames and more. And don’t forget to confirm whether your rental property is required to be professionally cleaned. If so, keep your service receipt as proof for your landlord.

Move Out on the Same Day as Your Roommates If possible, coordinate a move-out day with your roommates. You don’t want to leave it up to your roommate to make sure the apartment is perfectly cleaned and ready for the next tenant. You also don’t want your roommates to move out before you, leaving any junk for you to clean up. Make it a team effort!

Do a Mock Inspection with Friends Invite some trusted friends over and go through your move-out checklist together. You may be surprised by how many things you would have missed if you went through your checklist solo. It is suggested to mark every damage or deterioration, because some of them are the landlord’s responsibility, while others should be deducted from your deposit.

Once you know who’s responsible for what, you can fix any issue that occurred during your occupancy.

Have Your Landlord Do a Mock Inspection Ask your landlord to do an unofficial inspection before your move-out date. This not only helps you assess what needs fixing but also allows both of you to get on the same page about what needs additional cleaning or repairs.

Give yourself a few days between this inspection and your move-out day so you have time to correct anything your landlord may be unhappy with.

Do Necessary Repairs Small repairs like replacing light bulbs, filling nail holes and unclogging drains are small things that make a big difference. They’ll take you no more than an hour to complete, but they’ll raise the general condition of the property. The landlord will definitely appreciate the work done and will be less likely to claim deductions from the deposit. Additionally, painting a coat of the original paint color on any walls with scuffs or holes. Either going a DIY route for around $50 or hiring a service and asking for cheaper “white boxing” rates.

Depending on the condition of your walls, this could be more cost-effective than losing that money out of your deposit, especially if your rental is small. And if you don’t have the funds for either option? The next best thing I’ve seen is the Magic Eraser. It will be your BFF when it comes to getting rid of scuffs and marks.

Research Local Laws It’s illegal in most states for a landlord to keep your security deposit without explanation, so research renter’s rights related to security deposits at the city, county, and state level. Good starting points for this information are the websites of your state’s attorney general and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. While your property manager should already be aware of these regulations, you should be too. Landlord-tenant laws exist to help you but be your own advocate.

Finally, while following these 10 suggestions will certainly go a long way, so does being nice. Patience and politeness are memorable qualities, especially if you live in a large apartment complex where plenty of other residents are moving out around the same time as you.

If thinking about the process of getting your security deposit back is daunting, rest assured that it doesn’t have to be. With some planning and clear, considerate communication, you’re well on your way to getting your hard-earned deposit money back into your hands.

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