When the time comes to move out of your current rental and into a new rental or your first home, there is one issue that embitters landlord-tenant relationships faster than lemon juice curdles milk: the return of the security deposit. In almost all cases, landlords collect a security deposit up front when you sign your lease. This money is held in escrow should you break the lease and vacate the premises before the end of your agreed upon term and/or to cover any damage that must be repaired after you move out. This is where things usually start to go wrong with security deposit returns.
Even if you keep your rental property in pristine condition, many property managers or landlords still attempt to deduct the cost of refurbishment after you vacate from the escrowed funds of your security deposit. Usually, this occurs after claims are made regarding the condition of the property after you vacate, and without the proper documentation it is extremely difficult to recover those deductions as you no longer have legal right to be on the property. In order to prevent this sort of situation from happening to you, it is critical that you follow the following 7 tips for ensuring that your full security deposit is returned to you after you move out of your current place.
6 Tips to Getting Back Your Rental Deposit
In order to prevent this sort of situation from happening to you, it is critical that you follow the following six tips for ensuring that your full security deposit is returned to you after you move out of your current place. Here’s what you need to do:
1. Have a Moveout Plan
Always compose a plan for your move out before leaving the property and turning in your keys. Most tenants don’t remember their security deposit until well after they have left their old apartment, or they fail to map out in writing exactly what they need to do in order to make certain that they will get their security deposit back. Without a clear plan written down, it is very easy to forget important details.
2. Give Notice One Month In Advance
Make sure you notify your landlord in writing no less than a month before the date you plan to vacate the property. This is common courtesy so that the landlord or property manager can post the available vacancy and have a new tenant ready to move in as soon as you are out. This helps them prevent a gap in rental income, making it more likely that you will get your security deposit back.
If you are on a month-to-month occupancy lease and plan to relocate before your lease is up for the current month, you would do well to find a tenant to occupy your apartment on your own before notifying your landlord that you are moving out.
If you are one of a group of individuals on a lease, be sure to negotiate with your housemates and the landlord in advance about returning your share of the security deposit to you before the end of the current lease. Without prior arrangement, it can be very difficult to recover those funds otherwise.
Always discuss your cleaning plans with the landlord, and do not do more or less cleaning than you agree to do as a result of that conversation.
3. Fix/Repair Any Alterations/Refurbishments You Have Made
Give your apartment a thorough cleaning, and if you have painted any of the rooms you should repaint them back to the original color. Check for any damage that you, your pets, or guests may have caused and repair this damage yourself if you are able. Fill in any screw or picture hanger holes, torn paint from removing posters or adhesive picture holders, and any other holes in the walls that you find. Make sure you clean the floors and carpets thoroughly once all of your furniture and belongings have been packed up and moved out.
4. Take Photos of the Entire Property
When you move in, it is important that you make a checklist of any items that your landlord has provided for your use. Before moving out, ensure that all items are in good working order. Take pictures of the original condition of the walls, carpets, ceilings, baseboards, molding, and other surfaces in order to have a clear record of the original condition of the apartment.
Another method is to take a video of your walkthrough before you move your things in, allowing you to have a complete record of any and all existing conditions in the apartment prior to your occupying the premises. This may prove to be crucial to recovering your security deposit later, so don’t forget to do this when you move in and when you leave.
5. ALWAYS Complete the Final Walkthrough With Your Landlord
This is so fundamentally vital: never hand over your keys and officially vacate your apartment until after you have completed a walkthrough and property checklist with your landlord. If possible, sign and have the landlord sign a property checklist upon completion of your walkthrough.
6. Tidy Up Your Paperwork
Before your final move out day, make sure all utilities and services are paid up for the address through your termination date. Make copies of your receipts for payment and give a copy to your landlord as well as a letter stating that all balances due have been paid. This protects you, your landlord, and the next tenant from the negative consequences of non-payment.
Use Common Sense
Following these simple tips protects you and your security deposit, and helps to keep everyone involved in the lease honest regarding how final financial arrangements are handled for the rental property. Use common sense in how you treat your rental property and plan ahead, and you should see your full security deposit back every time you have to move to a new apartment.