Plan to Get Back Your Apartment Security Deposit

About to move out? Oh, yay. Here are some things to focus on if you’re angling to get your security deposit returned.

 just moving in to your apartment Plan to Get Back Your Apartment Security Deposit Security Deposit Landlord


If you’re just moving in to your apartment…

Do a walk-through, and take pictures! This is probably the number one thing you can do to protect yourself against losing your deposit unfairly. As long as you leave the apartment in as good condition as you found it—and you have documented proof of this fact!—then you have a strong case against your landlord if she decides to keep the deposit anyway. True, you may not want to go to court. But just the fact that you could and you’d be likely to win might be enough to persuade your landlord to see reason.



If you’re just moving out of your home

Clean and repair the place until it’s immaculate. I mean, duh. While it’s true that your landlord cannot charge you for “normal wear and tear,” it’s best to avoid having a conversation about what “normal wear and tear” means. (I’m having uncomfortable flashbacks to being accused of never having vacuumed in my life.) Clean the carpet, perhaps professionally. Keep the receipts to prove it. Patch any holes in the wall and paint over them; also paint any scrapes or other marks. This includes: hand prints, crayon marks, and that ill-advised mural that you insisted on starting one night.

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For goodness’s sake…

Give enough notice. If you’re on a month-to-month lease, stick with at least 30 days, preferably more. Give written notice so there’s no dispute about when you gave it. If you have a lease, check it to see how far in advance you need to tell your landlord that you’re leaving. If you break a lease, you might well lose your security deposit, but you’ll decrease the legality of withholding if you find replacement tenants who meet your landlord’s requirements.


Don’t forget to clean your rental home…

Take all of your stuff. Otherwise, your landlord can reasonably withhold part of your deposit to pay for the cost of storing or disposing of your junk. Don’t set yourself up to have this particular fight.

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If part of your deposit is withheld…

Ask your landlord for an itemized receipt, with documentation, of everything she is charging you for. Remember that some things, like carpet, have a “shelf-life,” so if it’s been in the house for over a particular amount of time, the landlord cannot charge you for it even if you did damage it. It’s considered dead anyway!



If you’re unsure, read your rental agreement again and more…

Do more research. Every state has slightly different laws about what landlords can and can’t do; check your rental laws. At the very least, brush up on federal standards.

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If you live in California…

Plan on small claims court. Just kidding! …But not really. According to inside sources—that is, people I know who represent low-income renters—California landlords seem to be really reluctant to return security deposits. If you really deserve that deposit back, you might have to make your case to a judge.


If you have any more ideas be sure to tell others on the MyNewPlace Facebook!





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