Moving Out: Getting Back Your Security Deposit

Moving is emotionally and physically draining-but the biggest burden usually falls on your finances. Between packing supplies and making a down payment for your next abode, your budget may be tight.

For families and individuals making a move, a return on their original deposit can alleviate some of the burden. Unfortunately, many landlords withhold some or all of this return for a variety of reasons. In fact, a 2013 survey by Rent.com shows that 1 in 4 renters have received no refund on their deposit.

house-renting-257202When it comes to factors that impact your refund, some may be out of your control. For example, most renters who lost their deposit report the cause as moving out early. Some factors, however, are entirely in your control. Most tenants will get a return on their deposit when they fulfill the following obligations:

  • Return the property in its original condition
  • Pay off all rents and money owed
  • Establish a history of responsible tenancy

In other words, following the terms of your contract should get you a refund on the deposit. If you have concerns, take these tips into consideration.

  1. Take an Inventory of Existing Damages

Before you move in, take detailed notes about the condition of the rental space. In the rush and excitement of moving to a new place, it can be easy to overlook small imperfections. By documenting the existing damages, you protect yourself from a forgetful (or vindictive) landlord.

As you take inventory, be sure to perform the following tasks:

  • Turn on and off all lights, faucets, and appliances.
  • Lock and unlock all windows and doors.
  • Test all electrical outlets.
  • Evaluate the cleanliness of all window treatments and drapes.

If there are serious existing damages, it may be wise to photograph them. As you evaluate the premises, be sure to check the balcony, yard, storage area, and garage.rental-agreement

  1. Read and Follow the Terms of the Lease

During your stay, you’ll want to be sure you fully understand the terms of your lease. Some tenants make the mistake of skimming over the paperwork. Then, they learn that they could have easily avoided a lost deposit. As a general rule, your rental agreement will require you to:

  • Clean and remove stains before they set in.
  • Abide by any and all pet policies.
  • Follow customization (painting, installations, etc.) guidelines.
  • Move in and out by a certain date.

Knowing and following the rules will make the experience easier on you and the landlord.

If you have a request outside of the agreed-upon terms, be sure to get your landlord’s consent in writing. This way, all guidelines and updates are properly documented.

  1. Return the Property in Its Original Condition . . . At Least

After you move out, take the time to clean up any messes you have made. If you can’t leave the property better than you found it, return it to its original condition at the very least.

Of course, this step will only be possible if you followed the first tip and took detailed notes about the original condition.

As you prepare your rental for the final cleaning check, be sure to:

  • Close and lock all windows.
  • Remove all tenant-owned furniture and garbage.
  • Sweep and vacuum the floor.
  • Wipe down walls, taking care to remove scuff marks.

From there, your apartment should be in good enough condition to withstand evaluation.

Secure the Entire Deposit

Following these three tips should get you on the path toward a refund of the entire security deposit. As you perform each step, a good rule of thumb is to go above and beyond as often as possible. Let your landlord see that you’ve made the effort to document damages, follow the rules, and return the property in its original condition. When your landlord sees your efforts, he or she will be much more likely to give you back your full deposit.

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