Moving can be an arduous, expensive process, especially once you factor in security deposits. However, if you live in your rental property using proper care and maintenance, you can get all your money back from your landlord. In this blog, we’ll explain what a security deposit is and how you can get your full security deposit refund back.
What Is a Security Deposit for an Apartment?
A security deposit is upfront money you pay your landlord when moving into an apartment or rental property. You can view it as insurance for your landlord to protect their property from damage. The amount of money varies by state and property. It could be one month’s rent, two month’s rent, or a flat rate the property owner sets.
The landlord holds the security deposit in a bank account for the lease’s duration. If you decide to move out at the end of your lease, the landlord will conduct a move-out inspection of the property. Following the inspection, they may:
- Fully return your deposit if everything looks good
- Partially return your deposit if the damage costs less to fix than the security deposit amount
- Keep the entire security deposit and possibly charge you more money to cover the property damage
They can also keep some or all of your security deposit if there are unpaid rent or utility charges. How soon you can get your deposit back after your lease ends depends on your state’s laws.
How to Get Your Security Deposit Back
Here’s what you need to do to get your security deposit back before you move into your apartment, during your tenure, and before you move out of your apartment.
Before You Move into the Apartment
- Review your lease: Before you move in, re-read your lease, so you know what modifications are permitted, which ones are prohibited, and how to report problems to your landlord. The lease should also tell you the number of days your landlord has to return the security deposit to you, how many days you need to give them a move-out notice, and move-out inspection requirements. Once you know what to do, keep your lease in an easily accessible location so you can refer back to it when needed.
- Document any existing property damage: When you move into an apartment or rental property, your landlord may give you an inventory and condition form. This document allows you to note any existing property damage. Do a walk-through of the property, and document any holes, marks, or general wear and tear throughout the home. You may also want to take pictures to provide additional proof to your landlord. Once you complete the form, send it to your landlord and make a copy for your records.
While Living in Your Apartment
- Report maintenance issues: If something stops working or breaks in your rental property, report the issue to your landlord immediately and have them fix it. Also, keep a written record of any maintenance requests, so you have a paper trail when you move out of the apartment.
- Maintain your bathrooms: Regularly clean your shower tile and grout with bleach or mold/mildew remover. If you don’t, your landlord may have to strip off the caulk or replace the grout, which might deduct money from your deposit. Also, occasionally clean out your vent fan and regularly check underneath sinks for mold, mildew, and leaks. Report any problem to your landlord.
- Keep up with your kitchen: A couple of times a year, take the mesh filter from your stove’s range hood and submerge it in water with baking soda and dish soap. Once a year, remove the bottom grill from the front of your refrigerator and clean it. If you have a dishwasher, use a product that reduces hard water and mineral deposits every couple of months.
- Clean your carpet: If you have carpet in your apartment, it’s important to spot treat a stain as soon as it happens. Also, don’t shampoo your carpet because it can leave residue that may attract dirt.
Before You Move Out of Your Apartment
- Give your landlord a proper move-out notice: The rules surrounding lease termination vary from state to state and lease to lease. But generally, you should give your landlord at least 30 days notice before moving out. Re-read your lease to get specific information about termination. If you don’t give your landlord proper notice, you might have to pay an additional month’s rent and wait longer to get your security deposit back.
- Ask your landlord to do a walkthrough: Before moving out, ask your landlord if they can do a walkthrough of your apartment. That way, they can point out what does and doesn’t need repairs or cleaning, making your move-out process much more efficient.
- Make any necessary repairs: Take the last month of your lease to fix damages that don’t need professional help. These tasks may include patching drywall holes with caulk or putty, painting a room back to its original color, and fixing a leaky faucet.
- Perform a deep clean: A deep cleaning is one of the most important things you can do to get your security deposit back, so take the time to spruce up your unit. This means removing scuffs on the walls, cleaning dirt and dust off the baseboards, clearing out and wiping down the refrigerator, scrubbing bathroom fixtures, and more. If you don’t have time to fully clean your apartment, consider hiring a professional cleaning company to help make your unit sparkle.
- Don’t leave anything behind: Ensure to take everything with you when moving out. Your landlord could deduct from your security deposit if you leave anything behind, which can be as minuscule as silverware in the kitchen drawer. Check every closet, drawer, and cabinet to make sure everything is cleared out.
- Return your keys and parking pass: This seems simple, but failing to return your keys and parking pass could lead to a deduction from your deposit. Schedule a time with your landlord to drop these things off so you don’t forget.
- Leave a forwarding address: Your landlord inspects your unit after you move out, so they won’t be able to deliver your security deposit check right away. That’s why you need to leave a forwarding address so they can mail the check. If you’re unsure of your future residence, put down a permanent address — e.g., your parents’ address — or set up a PO box to ensure you get your check.
A security deposit is a lot of money, so these steps can help ensure you get your money back from your landlord. If you’re planning on moving into an apartment or rental property, purchasing renters insurance is highly recommended to protect your belongings. Mercury offers reliable renters insurance for as little as $11 per month.