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
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
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.
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4. Keep an Eye on Your Floors
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
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!
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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!