How to Get Your Full Deposit Back

One of the challenges of renting a home or apartment is making sure you get your security deposit back when you leave the property.

The purpose of a security deposit is to provide your landlord with money to pay for any repairs or home improvements that may be necessary when you vacate the property. Therefore, you may assume you will get your full deposit back when you move out, as long as you do not damage the living space during your stay.

Your landlord may be willing to return some of the deposit when you move out, but it may be difficult to get all of it back. It is also possible he or she may try to withhold your entire security deposit for an unconvincing reason. Preparing yourself for the possibility of either situation occurring can help you get your full security deposit back, no matter what your landlord’s intentions are. Below are tips for how to get your full deposit back.

Learn the Rules Relating to Your Security Deposit

When trying to guarantee you will get your security deposit back, you must familiarize yourself with security deposit rules. Some of those rules are in the form of laws set by your state. For example, your state may have a law requiring you to inform your landlord 30 days before you move out. Failure to do so may legally entitle the landlord to keep your security deposit.

Other security deposit rules may be set by your landlord and were present when you were signing your lease. For example, your landlord may not allow you to hang pictures in your rented home using nails. If he or she finds evidence that nails were used after you move out, the amount you get back from your security deposit may be reduced. In some situations, such as if you paint your living space without permission, the entire deposit may be withheld.

The only way to avoid such issues is to read your lease carefully. Memorize the security deposit terms or refer back to the lease to read the terms again each time you are considering making a cosmetic change to the home. Even if your landlord agrees verbally to let you make such a change, you must get permission to do so in writing or by email. A written agreement will ensure he or she cannot claim you acted without permission. Obtaining written permission is especially important if verbal permission from your landlord to make a particular change conflicts with the terms of your lease.

Keep Visual Records

Keeping visual records is important if you want to verify the condition of the home when you move in versus its condition when you move out. You should also thoroughly inspect your apartment as soon as you move in. Ideally, your landlord should be with you when you take pictures or videos prior to moving in so you can point out any issues.

Technology today makes it easy to take pictures or videos to document the state of your home using a camera or cellular phone. If the rental property includes any outside areas, take pictures or video of those. Then, document the condition of all aspects of each room, including:

  • Walls.
  • Floors and carpets.
  • Ceilings.
  • Closets.
  • Cabinets.

When you use current technology to take pictures, the dates and times when they were taken can easily be verified. Therefore, even if your landlord is not present when you take photographs, you will have proof of when they were taken. If your landlord makes any claims about damage you know you did not cause, you can present your evidence to show he or she is in error.

Follow Proper Inspection Procedures

Having your landlord walk through your rental home or apartment with you is sometimes not enough. You must also make sure you follow proper inspection procedures. Those procedures should include conducting an inspection with the landlord before you move in and again before you move out. During the initial inspection you must:

  • Make a list of damages you notice and get the landlord to sign the list.
  • Copy the list so you can each keep a copy for your records.
  • Discuss repair plans for any damages you notice with the landlord.
  • Have the landlord sign an agreement detailing when and how he or she plans to repair those damages.
  • Make a copy of the agreement and store it in a safe place with the list of damages.

To get your full deposit back, you must also follow proper inspection procedures when you are ready to move out. Ask your landlord to walk through the apartment with you after you have removed your furniture and belongings. Go through the same process you did during the initial inspection, discussing damages and noting them in writing. Compare the noted damages to your list of pre-existing damages from the initial inspection. If you feel you are being unfairly blamed for damage that was present when you moved in, use the initial list to defend your position. You may also be able to negotiate a smaller deduction for damages caused during your stay.

Do Your Own Repairs Before Moving Out

You cannot repair every type of damage that may occur during your stay in a rental home. However, there are certain types of common repairs and home maintenance you can make on your own. The costs associated with making small repairs yourself will be inexpensive. However, if your landlord is forced to make them, he or she may deduct a large amount from your security deposit. Examples of repairs you can easily and cheaply perform yourself include:

  • Replacing the catch pans under stove burners.
  • Patching up small holes, such as those made by nails.
  • Painting, if your rental agreement allows it.
  • Replacing batteries and light bulbs.

Clean the Home Before Moving Out

Another easy way for you to get your full deposit back is to clean the home thoroughly prior to leaving. Begin by making sure you remove all of your personal possessions. Otherwise, your landlord may use funds from your deposit to have those possessions removed later. In your rush to pack and move, it can be easy to forget items, especially if they are tucked away in invisible areas. Therefore, you must do a careful visual inspection before leaving. Particular emphasis should be placed on checking:

  • Closets.
  • Drawers.
  • Cabinets.
  • The attic, if you have one.
  • The basement, if you have one.
  • Other storage areas.

After all of your possessions are removed from the premises, clean the home thoroughly. Start by dusting everything, beginning with ceiling fans and upper cabinets and working your way down toward the floor. Clean counters, appliances and other surfaces. Spend extra time making sure the kitchen and bathroom are as clean as possible. Finally, sweep, vacuum or mop to remove the remainder of the debris. If you have pets, you must also spend extra time cleaning pet stains and removing pet odors from the space using baking soda or other odor-eliminating products.

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