In the hustle of moving into a new apartment and getting yourself and your stuff settled in, it can be easy to forget about your security deposit. After all, most landlords don’t even give those back. But should they? And there’s so much to do with moving in. Why worry about a security deposit?
The reason you should worry about it is because the security deposit is your money that you should be able to take with you when you end your lease and leave your apartment in good condition. Before you move in, you should know these five tips for ensuring that your receive your security deposit when you move out again:
When You Move In
1. Read all your paperwork. This should go without saying, but the fact of the matter is that many of us simply sign leases and other paperwork after only giving them a cursory glance. But your lease and other attendant paperwork should tell you exactly what your landlord expects in terms of your apartment’s care and upkeep. And if that information is not spelled out or is sketchy at best, then it falls upon you to discuss with your landlord what the expectations are. You want to be on the same page with him regarding what sorts of wear and damage would constitute his keeping the security deposit.
2. Fill out the condition report and take pictures. The advent of digital photography makes the walk-through with the apartment condition report much simpler. While landlords should provide you with a simple room checklist where you can make a note of any pre-existing wear or damage, you can really help yourself by recording each instance with a picture. Even if your landlord does not provide you with such a condition report, you need to make one up yourself, with photographs. Once you’ve done this, make two copies: one to keep, and one to give to your landlord.
Ask your landlord to sign off on the condition report that you have filled out. Let him know that if you don’t receive the sign-off from him within a reasonable amount of time — two to three weeks, for example — you will assume that means he does agree to the condition report.
While You Live There
3. Keep the apartment clean and in good working order. The reason why so many landlords do not allow pets is because they know their tenants will not clean up after them. Don’t be that tenant. Clean up after yourself, your pets, your children, your guests, etc. Remember that this place does not belong to you, and that you do need to cover any damage above normal wear and tear.
When You Move Out
4. Leave yourself time to clean. Even if you have paid a non-refundable cleaning deposit, you still need to spend a good afternoon (or day, depending on how long you’ve lived there) doing some serious cleaning. Generally, the cleaning that your non-refundable deposit paid for should be the type of stuff that cannot be done by an individual with normal cleaning supplies — like steam cleaning the carpet. Don’t leave scuff marks on the kitchen floor and candle wax on the walls and assume the cleaning deposit will cover it.
5. Do a walk through with your landlord. Using those pictures and the condition report from move in, show your landlord that you have left your apartment in reasonable and rent-able condition. Make sure he signs an agreement stating that.
Remember that the security deposit is meant to take care of any repairs necessary above and beyond the wear and tear that will normally occur through occupancy. As long as you follow these tips, there is no reason why your landlord should need to hold onto that money.
What has your rental experiences been? Have you ever left a lease without getting your deposit back?