You’ve lived in that house or apartment for nearly a year and are ready to move on. You had to give your landlord a fairly hefty security deposit and you would like to get it all back. So what do you do?
Did you read your lease?
You should have read your lease very carefully before you signed it so that you would know what’s required to get back your security deposit. If you didn’t read the lease or don’t remember what it said, you need to find and read it. It should set forth exactly what’s required for you to get back 100% of your deposit.
Be a detective
Go through every room as if you were a private detective. Check out everything in detail. Take photos or record a video of every room. Note any issues or damages you find so that you can discuss them with your landlord before you move out.
When you’re ready to move out
Be sure to meet with your property manager or landlord before you move out to discuss what’s expected. Are you required to clean windows, polish floors, and have carpets cleaned or if you have a dog, are you required to clean up the yard? If you had any repairs done yourself or replaced small items such as a smoke detector, have the receipts ready. That way you could ask your landlord to let you deduct them from your last month’s rent or reimburse you for them.
After you move out
Once you have moved out all your belongings, be sure to take photos or videos of every room. This can help you get back your deposit because you can use them to prove how things looked when you’ve vacated the premises. It’s just a good way to prevent arguments with your landlord.
Do a final walk-through
Do a walk-through with your property manager as soon as you can after you vacate the premises. The objective here is to get your landlord to agree that you have done everything required by your lease so that you should get back 100% of your security deposit.
If there were damages
If you did damage the or apartment in some way–broken flooring, a hole in the wall, stained carpeting or water damage–you need to be ready to discuss this with your landlord. It’s important that the two of you agree as to what damage was done and how much it will cost to repair it. Otherwise you could be hit with a very nasty surprise after you move out.
Know your rights
If your landlord agrees that you have fulfilled everything required by your lease and that you will get 100% of your security deposit back, you still need to make sure that he or she follows the law. Your landlord or property manager should have to tell you within a certain amount of time whether you’ll be getting back your entire security deposit or if some of it will be withheld to cover damage you did to the premises.
What to do if you feel you’ve been treated unfairly
In the event your property manager fails to return all or some of your security deposit and you feel this was not justified, you can take him or her to small claims court. Remember the advice about taking pictures or videos of all the rooms right after you moved out? This is where they could be invaluable because you could use them to prove your case–that you had lived up to everything required by your lease.