Apartment Living BlogApartment Hunting › 5 Ways to Ensure You Get Your Full Security Deposit Back

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The security deposit: the chunk of change (usually equal to or greater than one month’s rent) that is due in addition to your first month’s rent upon moving into a rental. It is your property manager’s/rental agency’s insurance that you will maintain the property according to their specifications, and it’s a wonderful thing to get back at the end of a rental stint. However, it sure can sting when deductions add up, leaving you with barely enough to grab dinner on the way out of town. To ensure you get your full security deposit back when it’s time to move out of your next rental, keep these five tips in mind!

1. Be Detailed on Your Move-In Inspection

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The move-in inspection sheet is usually among the many pieces of paper you receive upon moving into a rental, and unfortunately, it is often lost or dismissed as a nuisance task. However, it is the only official proof of your unit’s condition upon moving in, which in turn dictates how you must return the unit upon moving out in order to get your full security deposit back. If possible, methodically go through your rental and document every single case of damage, wear and tear, poor functionality and missing items (light bulbs, knobs, shelves, etc.) before you move in. Not only is it easier to see issues in an empty apartment, but you won’t be distracted by deciding where the couch goes or what to hang on each wall! Be as thorough as possible and closely examine walls, ceilings, flooring/carpet, light fixtures, locks and windows/blinds. Consider typing up your findings and attaching addendums as necessary in order to capture every last detail. Return it to your property manager or rental agency within the appropriate timeframe, and make a copy for yourself (and store in a safe place!) before doing so.

2. Take Pictures

While you most likely won’t ever turn them over to your property manager, having pictures of the damage you encounter while moving in can help adjudicate disagreements upon moving out. As you complete the move-in inspection, snap pictures of everything you find (take detailed shots as well as overall shots of each space from a variety of angles). Like with the move-in inspection sheet, it is best to take pictures of an empty unit before your stuff is in it. Store the photos in a dedicated folder on your computer until you move out.

3. Read Your Lease Carefully

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Your lease will detail everything and anything that is and isn’t allowed in your rental. From pets and painting to landscape maintenance and parking, almost everything will be detailed in black and white; by signing on the dotted line, you agree to the terms outlined. So that you aren’t surprised by any obscure charges during your tenancy or upon moving out, take some time to become very familiar with your lease. Abide by it and you should encounter no charges upon moving out.

Not allowed to paint? Check out these five clever ways to color your walls without paint!

4. Keep an Eye on Your Floors

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Floors, particularly stains on carpets, are one of the main security deposit deductions in rentals. Many property managers/rental agencies will require a professional carpet cleaning upon move-out; however, this final cleaning can only take care of so many issues. So that your carpets are spotless at your move-out inspection, diligently care for your floors and carpets during your entire tenancy. Try not to wear shoes inside, treat stains as soon as they occur, put down rugs/runners in high-traffic areas and consider steam and/or professionally cleaning the carpets annually.

5. Leave Plenty of Time to Make Repairs

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Despite what all you may be allowed to do to your rental (paint, hang pictures, etc.), most property managers/rental agencies will require that the unit be returned to its original condition prior to moving out. Any walls not painted, holes not filled, trash not emptied or carpets not cleaned can result in some hefty deductions to your security deposit. Depending on how long you lived in your rental and what you did to it, it may take a bit of time and work to restore it. Be sure to leave yourself ample time to make any and all repairs prior to your checkout day. Also, if you are moving during peak season, schedule professional carpet/household cleaning companies, painters and handymen early, as they book up fast!

Don’t want to deal with filling holes? Here are four renter-friendly ways to hang things on the walls!

It is painful to fork over a security deposit amidst the costs of moving into a new rental. However, getting all that money back upon moving out can feel like a great payday! With some smart rental practices and diligence in maintaining your property, it is possible to get 100% of your deposit back. Be very familiar with what is and isn’t allowed, and thoroughly maintain and/or return your unit to the exact condition in which you found it!

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About :

Hi, I'm Megan...wife to a U.S. Marine and mom to a high-energy baby boy! We are a military family, moving into our 5th home in 8 years! I started this blog as a way to chronicle the various "homes I have made" over the years, as well as to be a resource for ideas, tips, and tricks for making any temporary space a cute, cozy and comfortable home! I hope you'll stay a minute, take a look around, introduce yourself, and hopefully...find something you like! Have a great day!

Visit The Homes I Have Made



  1. This is a truly comprehensive list! I completely agree about the importance of the move in inspection sheet, that has saved me from being charged for damage caused by a previous tenant, at least twice in separate units. There’s nothing worse than knowing you didn’t cause a hole, or stain and not having proof. It’s a discouraging feeling!
    • It is absolutely a discouraging feeling. With all the stress that goes into moving any added stress is definitely not needed. I’m glad you liked the checklist and it has helped you with your move Brentnie! Enjoy your new place!

  2. Nancy K. Neenan says:
    First Thank you for your sacrifices and your husbands service.
    I appreciate your list immensely .Haven’t had to do any home hunt in over 35 yrs so it’s a new world out there. LOL Made alist of notes to bring at open house this wknd…Be well and continued safety to you and yours.
  3. Wilma Souza says:
    You right! I took pictures when I arrived in my new apartment, but I was not filling out the forms to delivery to Realtor. I talked with her before about issues in the apartment, she gave not importance, but in the end of the contract, I’m not sure about that or if she will be working in this company still. Then, thank you for posting this.
  4. Pastor mary says:
    Great advise for me before I enter a rental agreement, Also how to inspect a place before renting. I am planning to move into a rental when I find what I want. thanks!!
  5. A new owner bought the apartment complex where I lived. Evicted many and started to rehab. I had to get rid of many things that I wanted to keep – libraries, furniture etc. He promised to refund my security deposit and last months rent. It’s been 3 years and I haven’t gotten it. I’ve written him 5 times asking for it. He wrote back once asking to call me but never did. I guess I have to sue for it. I live in another state and I probably can win but that doesn’t mean I’ll get him to pay me. I may have to go back several states away. Also, he own 150 complexes and strip malls. He’s fought with cities and loves it. I fear I may be throwing money away trying to get it… and he has more than I… much more!!! What can I do?
    • Here at our blog we usually do not advise as to what renters’ rights may be.  That is because the scenario that is described to us does not always include all of the relevant information, and specific facts may have been left out inadvertently by the person posting the comment or asking the question. My suggestion is to research your options via the HUD.gov website and (If necessary) to lock down a lawyer. ForRent.com is a marketing resource through which landlords share information about their apartments with the public. We try to stay in our lane when it comes to legal advice. Check out the site and hope it helps! Thanks Richard.

  6. None of that would help if you are dealing with dishonest management at apartments.
    I spent way too many days cleaning and giving back spotless apartment and management told me I’ll get my refund back. Every time I call, they keep telling me they mailed my deposit back, but it is been over year and I do not have it. Probably mailed my deposit to themselves
    • Anna, that is absolutely unprofessional management tactics that are unacceptable. I would definitely reach out to them and request they find out exactly where your funds are. If they do choose to send them out to you then require that a tracking code is added to the delivery. Best of luck getting your security deposit.

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