8 Tips On How To Get Your Security Deposit Back

By Ashley Henshaw. May 7th 2016

When you’re just moving into your apartment, the last thing on your mind may be how to get your security deposit back when you move out. However, there are several things you can do now and over the course of your residence there that will help to ensure that you get that money back in full when it’s time to move out.

Security Deposit Basics

A security deposit is required by most landlords when signing a lease to move into an apartment. This money is kept by the landlord to cover any damage incurred while you live in the apartment or to cover any back rent you owe. The type of damage covered by a security deposit includes broken windows, excessive or large holes in the walls or insect infestations. A security deposit cannot be used to cover the following things:

  • Normal wear and tear (chipped or fading paint, worn carpeting, etc.)
  • Storm damage
  • Fire damage
  • Damage incurred from a break-in

Get A Receipt

When you turn in your security deposit, it’s a good idea to get a receipt of the transaction. The receipt should specifically state that the money is for your security deposit. At the very least, keep a copy of your check to ensure that you have proof that you submitted it. This will help cover you in case your landlord claims you never turned in a security deposit.

Be Clear About The Terms

You may have a very different experience from one landlord to the next so it’s important to make it clear what the expectations are when you move in. Ask your landlord what they consider to be “normal wear and tear” and have that stipulated on your lease. The more you have in writing about what is expected of you, the better you will be covered when it’s time to move out.

Note The Damage When You Move In

On the day of your move-in, carefully inspect everything in your new apartment from the walls to the appliances to the floors. Note any existing damage by documenting it in writing and, if possible, in photographs. Turn copies of these into your landlord as proof that they were not caused by you. Some landlords even give you a handy sheet to help you do this initial evaluation.

Keep Up With Repairs

In most cases, your landlord will be doing most of the major repairs on your apartment. However, it’s vital to stay on top of these issues as they come up to avoid more severe damage. For example, call your landlord as soon as you have a leaky faucet or toilet to prevent getting charged for rot or mold later on.

Do A Walk-Through

When it’s time to move out, have your landlord walk through the apartment with you. The best time to do this is when most of your belongings have already been moved out so that you can see any potential damage. Ask your landlord if they see any damage that your security deposit will have to cover, then fix it before you officially move out. This may not be possible for all types of damage, but in many cases giving yourself a day for these last-minute fixes can end up getting you a lot more of your security deposit back.

Hire Professionals

Many people underestimate how much cleaning is necessary when moving out of an apartment. This is when all the little nooks and crannies you neglected during your time in your place become apparent. If it’s too much to handle or if you can’t seem to get it clean enough, hire a professional cleaning crew to come in. Make sure you let your landlord know about the cleaners coming in beforehand and give them a copy of the bill you paid.

Give Your New Address

Remember that the landlord needs to know how to find you if you want to get your security deposit back. Always give your landlord the address for your new apartment before you move out so they’ll know where to send the check.

Get Legal Help

Each state has different rules regarding how long a landlord has to get the security deposit back to you, but the longest period they get is 30 days. If you still haven’t gotten anything by then, send an official request for your security deposit by certified mail with a return receipt requested. If you still don’t hear anything a week after they receive your request, you may have cause to sue your landlord in small claims court. You may need the assistance of an attorney or legal counsel for this.

With a little extra effort and some planning, you can usually ensure that you get all or most of your security deposit back when you move out. If you have any questions about laws regarding security deposits in your state, check your state government website or ask an attorney for more information.

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