Question-Does my landlord have the right to withhold any portion of my security deposit? The reality is YES, they do, but there are a few ways you can ensure that you will get back every penny you put down.
OK, putting down a security deposit is a necessary evil, usually requiring a good chunk of change, but it is money that you can get back. Follow these tips to maximize your chances.
1. READ YOUR LEASE
Yep, pretty simple, but many tenants just give it a glance, thinking more about moving in than what to do when moving out. It should say WHEN to contact the landlord to give proper notice, and give the terms and conditions for getting the security deposit back, as well as the move out inspection requirements.
When you move in you should always do a walk through with your landlord to inspect your new home. Take photos, fill out an inspection form (make one if one isn’t provided) his will be important, This is where you should note any preexisting conditions…dented floors, scratched doors and walls, holes and marks, as well as general wear and tear. Not any appliance that may not be working, or is dented, how good the carpet looks….If you go over these items and document them, you can’t be held responsible for causing this damage. When you move out, don’t assume the landlord will remember that it was the previous people who left holes in the walls for their pictures. If you have photos of the preexisting condition, there won’t be an argument. As a side note..after you’ve moved in and are living in your new home, and you notice something isn’t working, tell your landlord. Some items on your check list might not be apparent (think an item you wouldn’t normally test right away…a burner, a small leak in a garden hose bib, etc.) Let them know so they have a chance to fix it asap.
3. RECORD ANY ENHANCEMENTS
Just as important, record any enhancements you have made to the home. Remember, always, always, always get the landlords permission to make these enhancements-things you think of improvements may not be your landlord’s idea of an enhancement. Painting the walls, removing plants to build your own garden, adding curtains or blinds, putting up a fence…just check first. The general rule is that you must return the property to it’s previous condition. Getting written permission to make these enhancements is very important, as the landlord may hold back a security deposit, or use a portion of it to undo what you have done. Even if you think it’s a great improvement, make sure your landlord does also.
4. FOLLOW THE RULES
If your lease says NO SMOKING, then don’t smoke, and make sure your visitors adhere to this rule also. If it says NO PETS, don’t offer to look after someone’s fur baby, or try to sneak a new puppy in under the radar. Smells, scratches, spots…all can affect how much of your deposit you will get to keep.
5. CLEAN, SCRUB, WIPE
Before you leave your home, it needs a good, deep clean…not just vacuuming and sweeping the floors. Clean the oven and refrigerator, toilets, showers and sinks, inside windows and sills. Remember you want them in sparkling, move in readiness. Otherwise, a chunk of your money will go to hiring professionals cleaners after you move out. Carpets should be cleaned without spots and vacuumed, floors scrubbed, grout cleaned. How did it look when you moved in? Leaving it in the exact same condition will make it more likely that your deposit comes back in full.
6. DO A MOVE OUT INSPECTION
Make sure all the tenants are on the same page if you’re moving out at different times. Try to do a walk through with your landlord, and get the sign-off on all rooms. Return keys to the landlord. If you’ve lost a key, make sure they know this. They may need to change the locks altogether. Don’t forget to leave a forwarding address! They can’t send you money if they have no idea where you’ve landed.
If your landlord says they are retaining a portion of your deposit to pay for damages, be sure to ask for an itemized list of all deductions and damages. Losing your security deposit can leave your bank account with a big hole in it. Most leases and laws give landlords 30 days to return the deposit. Follow the above tips, and it should help you get your money back with minimal hassle!