How To Get Your Security Depost Back

by Connie Mei · 3 comments

Renting a new apartment can be quite expensive. Aside from rent itself, there are lots of miscellaneous expenses you might not have thought about. One of the biggest is the security deposit, as almost all landlords ask for that lump sum upfront. Basically, if you damage something, it gets deducted from your deposit. The good news is that you can get it back when you move out…if you’re careful about it.

A security deposit can sometimes be up to two times your monthly rent. It’s not a small number but many tenants don’t take it seriously enough, since most just assume they’ll get it back at the end of their lease if nothing catastrophic happens. Some landlords, though, will nitpick at everything and try to keep as much of the security deposit as they can. Follow these tips to make sure you get all of your security deposit back:

Do a Thorough Inspection Before Moving In

Make sure you do a thorough inspection of the property before you move in. Don’t just rely on your “naked eye”. Check and make sure all the appliances are working. Test all the faucets and plumbing fixtures. Look for any cracks in the walls or ceilings. The bottom line is: if something doesn’t look right, tell your landlord about it. You don’t want to be blamed for the damage later on.

Take Pictures of Everything

On the day of move-in (before you get all your stuff in), takes pictures of the entire property. You want to document what the space looked like the day your lease began. One of the biggest issue tenants come across is being charged for damage that was already there when they moved in. Luckily, you now have physical photographic proof.

Read Your Lease Entirely

Leases are long and boring. That’s why most tenants don’t read them carefully. But it’s a legally binding document so make sure your read your lease entirely and understand every sentence that’s in there. The lease should cover things like who’s responsible for utilities and whether or not you’re allowed to have pets. If anything is questionable, don’t sign the papers and consult with a legal professional.

Always Ask for Permission First

Want to paint your walls another color? Not so fast. Make sure you ask your landlord for permission first. It may be covered in your lease but you always want to be safe rather than sorry. If you need to get special approval to do a modification to the property, be sure to get it in writing.

Understand Your Rights

Tenants’ rights are different in every state so read up on what your rights are. There are bound to be landlords that will try to charge you for every single little thing, but normal wear and tear isn’t something that you should have to pay for. If your landlord is being unfair, understand what your legal rights are. You shouldn’t have to pay for something that wasn’t your fault and there are laws protecting tenants from just that.

Have you ever had a problem getting your security deposit back? Tell us your story below!

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  • BJ says:

    I have never gotten my full security deposit back and I was one of the most responsible renters in the world–I was raised to take care of my things and if I had things (like a house) that didn’t belong to me then I take even better care. One of the favorite excuses I have found from landlords is carpeting–this happened twice to me personally–the carpet is old and the underlayment (wood floor) is stained–they clean the carpet when you move in but when you walk on the carpet the underlying stains wick back up and so the tenant is blamed. They do anything to avoid returning the full deposit. I was forced to buy a house because renting is so awful anymore– they examine your life like you applying for a top secret security clearance and legal discrimination is rife.

  • Atul says:

    Very practical tips….just adding one.
    Get the small repairs done before handing over the possession as landlord tends to deducts more for those repairs keeping a scope of over budget.

  • Great tips! I think people are already too overwhelmed with everything when moving and tend to neglect the inspection part! I was guilty of it myself, but not anymore! Now I make sure I take time to write down every little scratch or tear. It may take 30 minutes of my time but it could save me hundreds of dollars. Also, I agree that understanding your rights is so important. Carpets and paint have normal wear-and-tear, so make sure that your landlord does not make you pay the full cost when you are moving out, especially when you have lived in your apartment for several years.

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