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How To Get Your Security Deposit Back When You Rent

One of the biggest expenses of moving is the security deposit that you will have to pay. Typically it’s about one month’s rent, the silver lining is you will get your money back when you move out. Right? Not always my friend. If the apartment or home that you are renting is not properly maintained or cleaned they can withhold some or even all of your security deposit. Today, I’m going to dig in and share with you some tips to ensure that you get your entire security deposit back!

Read your lease.

When you are getting ready to start the process of moving out dig into your closet or filing cabinet and read your original lease agreement. Read all of the clauses for terminating your lease as well as the penalties for terminating early. Even if you don’t terminate early a lot of times you need to give 60 days’ notice before vacating.

Your lease agreement may also answer some of the questions that you have such as do the holes and walls need to be repainted or just the holes filled? There is also valuable information about charges that they may try and deduct from you deposit. My lease states $50 per wall that is not painted original color. Most leases don’t say the paint color, call or email your property manager to find out exact shade of paint that they use as well as any additional questions that you may have.

When you moved in you signed a sheet of all the damages in the home before you moved in. Make sure there are NO additional damages and if there is, make sure you fix them. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions!

Notify your landlord.

Just like quitting your job, give your landlord as much notice as possible. We notified our landlord as soon as we started the process of looking for a house. This not only kept the communication open but also let them know that we are going to be accommodating and easy to work with.

The more flexible you are the nicer they will be to work with.  

There have also been several times that because we were open with our landlord they felt comfortable calling us to ask if we wanted to end early for a prorated rate because they had a tenant that was ready to move in after us. It may not be fair but if it is in the benefit of the landlord they may make exceptions and allow you to break your lease early with no penalty.

Request a walk through.

I felt a little weird asking for a walk through the first time I rented, I was also intimidated that they were going to question or interrogate me. I had just finished reading the book  How to Win Friends & Influence People and it gave me the people skills to explain that I wanted a walk through for THEIR benefit and how it would point out what exactly needs a deeper cleaning or repair.  Sometimes they are planning on replacing the carpet so don’t waste your time of getting a rug doctor to clean it.

Make repairs.

One of the most frustrating tasks of moving out is walking around the entire apartment trying to remember where you hung pictures so that you can spackle the holes, then after you finish and move onto the next task find MORE holes. What a nightmare! A simple #LifeHack is to take a small piece of painters tape and put it over any holes that you need to fill with putty as you go. This way you can see very easily where all of the holes are and you don’t have to go back multiple times.  

Make sure all of the lightbulbs are working, replace any burnt out bulbs. I don’t mean to sound cheap but if you bought LED bulbs, make sure you take those with you and replace with a cheaper bulb. We have invested in Phillips Hue Smart Bulbs and yes they are totally worth the money, but I do NOT want to gift them to the next tenant. A simple Dollar Tree bulb will do just fine.

If you still have a coil electric stove, be sure to REPLACE the burner drip pans. The last apartment I lived in I spent almost an hour scrubbing them and they still didn’t look great only to find out that they are super cheap, only about $12 on Amazon.

Clean everything really well, make it shine! Clean AFTER you move out. Always try and move a few days to a week before you need to be out, you don’t want to be rushed and miss important items.

If there were any damages that happened at your stay that you reported make sure you have the email and photos ready to show them. Story time, after living in our apartment for over a year we noticed that there was mold growing on Jayme’s shoes. After some investigation I realized that there was a crack in the wall.

Yes, you heard that right, a crack in the wall, and I could see daylight! We live in South Florida and it is extremely humid. This resulted in the humidity getting into the apartment resulting in mold. I immediately documented everything and had email correspondence with our landlord. Even if we have phone conversations I always made sure to recap the conversation in email so that we both had record of it. We had this ready in case they tried to say that we caused mold in the apartment.

To my pet lovers, if you have carpets they can get quite smelly. You may not smell anything because you are accustom to the smell but it will be the first thing an outsider will notice. Simply sprinkle some baking soda on the carpets and let them sit for an hour and then vacuum up. This will help absorb some of the odor.

Don’t leave any unwanted items or trash.

This may sound like a no brainer but it still needs to be said. Make sure it is completely EMPTY. If you leave anything big like a table or couch the landlord will have to pay someone to remove it which will come off your security deposit.

Take pictures before you leave.

Right before I leave I always walk around and take a good video or photos of every room, especially any damage. That way if they try and say its worse you have proof. It is even better if you are able to take photos with a date and time stamp.

Leave your keys.

Ask your landlord how they would like you to return your keys. Sometimes they ask that you drop them off during business hours and sometimes they request that you leave them on the counter and lock the doorknob from the inside.  Don’t forget your mailbox key or pool key, for any missing keys you can be charged up to $25 per key.

Be sure to also provide your new address to send your security deposit to. If they do not have a forwarding address they are not required to reach out to you to obtain it and will withhold the deposit. I always place the keys, forwarding address written down as well as a short thank you note in an envelope. Including a quick thank you note really goes a long way!

Follow up with your landlord.

Lastly, be sure to follow up with your landlord. As previously stated by law they only are required to give it back to you if you ASK. If you haven’t heard from them in 15-30 days, reach out.

I hope that you found these tips helpful. Please comment below and let me know what are some of your best tips for getting your security deposit back… or horror stories!

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