Renters: A Few Ways to Make Sure You Get Your Security Deposit Back

Getting your security deposit back from your landlord after you move may feel like an impossible feat, but it isn’t. Remember that your security deposit is essentially your money, so not all hope is lost when it’s time to move out.

Here’s some expert advice for making sure your security deposit money goes back into your wallet where it belongs.

Start planning when you move in
Taking precautions when you move in saves you time (and money) when you’re ready to move out. Use removable poster putty and removable hooks to avoid getting charged for holes in the wall later, and felt pads to protect wood floors from scratches.

Stay organized
You know all of those rental-related documents you received when you moved in? Read them thoroughly and keep them all in one place. Find out the proper procedures to end your rental agreement and comply with them.

Document everything
Unfortunately, “fair wear and tear” is subjective.

Tenants should photograph everything in the rental property to serve as proof of the property’s condition.

While photo documentation is great, sometimes it’s not enough. Take a video walkthrough of the unit when you first move in, and again when you move out.

If the property manager tries to keep your deposit, your video will serve as proof that you kept the rental in quality condition. It makes it very hard for them to argue with you. It will help you save a few hundred dollars, and only takes a few minutes.

Further, keep a record of each time you contacted your property manager to report maintenance issues. And whenever reporting maintenance requests, do so via email or through a reporting system that sends you a confirmation; this serves as better proof for your record-keeping than any phone call.

Contact your landlord
Confirm with the property manager how far in advance you need to alert them about your move-out date. While your rental agreement may already note this, a quick conversation serves as both a helpful confirmation and a courtesy to your landlord.

Clean thoroughly
In addition to the standard vacuuming and dusting, plan to do a serious deep clean if you want all of your deposit money back. This means behind and beneath appliances, plus details like light switches, door frames, and more.

And don’t forget to confirm whether your rental property is required to be professionally cleaned then keep your service receipt for your landlord as proof.

Have your landlord do a mock inspection
Ask your landlord to do an unofficial inspection before your move-out date. This not only helps you assess what needs fixing, but also allows both of you to get on the same page about what needs additional cleaning or repairs.

Give yourself a few days between this inspection and your move-out day so you have time to correct anything your landlord may be unhappy with.

Do necessary repairs
Small repairs like replacing light bulbs, filling nail holes, and unclogging drains are small things that make a big difference. They will take you no more than an hour to complete, but they will raise the general condition of the property. The landlord will definitely appreciate the work done and will be less likely to claim deductions from the deposit.

Research local laws
It’s illegal in most states for a landlord to keep your security deposit without explanation, so research renter’s rights related to security deposits at the city, county, and state level.

Good starting points for this information are the websites of your state’s attorney general and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. While your property manager should already be aware of these regulations, you should, too. Landlord-tenant laws exist to help you, but be your own advocate.

Finally, while following these suggestions will certainly go a long way, so does being nice. Patience and politeness are memorable qualities, especially if you live in a large apartment complex where plenty of other residents are moving out around the same time as you.