Get Back Your Deposit

By Christopher Crown

May 4, 2018 4 min read

Although it's a pain at first, many renters forget about their initial security deposit they paid upon moving into their new place. When it comes time to move again, it's easy to overlook some of the tiny details that earn you back that easy money. Sure, the apartment looks lived in, but they won't care, right? Wrong. Some surveyed landlords report that nearly 40 percent of renters will forfeit their deposits, according to a 2014 article written by Kristin Wong on the popular frugality website Lifehacker.com. How can you ensure you don't lose out? Several real estate authorities dissect the best strategies for getting your deposit back.

The most important factor in reclaiming your extra month's rent starts the moment you move in. With proper preparation, you can avert potential landlord troubles when you move out. Contributors to Trulia, one of the leading online real estate services, recommend doing a thorough inspection before signing the lease and printing out your own apartment checklist if your landlord does not supply one (they supply these on their online database). Sarah Pike, an author for Zillow, another online real estate authority, recommends taking photos and a video walkthrough of your apartment to visually document the condition and any imperfections, scuffs, scratches, holes or weird appliance sounds. Additionally, Trulia recommends reading through your lease with the same care, in order to find out how much advance notice your landlord needs before leaving, and any hidden fees or procedures that could forfeit your deposit.

Once you have learned how your landlord expects you to communicate with them and you have thoroughly documented the starting state of the apartment, the next step is maintenance. Whether you make small repairs as you go, or want to save all the fixes for your planned exodus, it's imperative to refer back to your checklist to make sure you cover all your bases. Similar to your walkthrough, Nolo, a popular online law resource and source for legal counsel, offers another safeguard in their online article by Marcia Stewart: Use photo and video documentation to record all damage and subsequent repairs. Furthermore, if you feel your landlord is being unreasonable, cite the "Security Deposits Limits and Deadlines in your State" article, also by Stewart on Nolo.com

When all is said and done, landlords can be a hassle even after you have moved out. If you have done everything properly and are confident in your repairs and documentation, Stewart recommends going to small claims court. Depending on your state, landlords have certain deadlines to repay deposits and limits to the amounts they can deduct for damage or unpaid rent. As long as you have thoroughly tracked all interactions and payments, landlord should release your deposit, says Stewart. Overall, as long as you keep up on repairs, maintain a communicative relationship with your landlord and know your rights, there should be no reason not to get that money back to put down for the next place.

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