How to Get Back Every Penny of your Security Deposit
May 25, 2018 | Allison Ables
When you move into a rental, your security deposit is a distant thought. As you go through the normal course of living your life, chances are the details of that security deposit probably don’t leap to mind very often. But now that you are considering a move, the security deposit you placed on your current home is very much on your mind. It is time to assess your situation and find out what I's need to be dotted and what T's need to be crossed before you move on.

While most rental agreements are similar, they can all have different details. No matter how the paperwork is worded, there are a handful of best practices that apply in every situation. If you want to get back every penny of your security deposit, get ready to bookmark this page.

Do Your Homework
The first and most important step is to go over the paperwork from your lease. Review all documents, with specific attention paid to anything involving move-out procedures and the security deposit. For better or worse, you need to know the details. If you cannot locate your lease, contact the rental office or agent immediately. Do you have photos, or a checklist from a walk-through when you first moved in? Keep it handy, and make a couple of extra copies of everything.

Beware “Normal Wear and Tear”
The phrase “normal wear and tear” comes up a lot. It refers to the effect over time of normal usage, it is a part of living anywhere, and it is not held against you when you move out. The problem is that “normal wear and tear” means different things to different landlords. Does the carpet need to be free of stains, or does it need to be steam cleaned? Are you held responsible for peeling paint, or old bathroom fixtures? Do the little holes you left in the walls need to be spackled and painted over? Optimally, you return the keys to the house or apartment in the same condition it was when you got it.  
 
Clean up 
In a perfect world, the place should be as clean as it was when you first moved in. That may not be possible, and most landlords don’t expect to be completely spotless. There are a few bare minimum requirements that not everyone manages to meet – but that you should.
  • Move everything out
  • Take out the trash
  • Repair damages you have caused (broken drawers, ripped screens, etc.)
  • Wipe down the bathroom and the kitchen
  • Sweep the floors
  • Empty the dishwasher
You can and probably will be charged for not completing these tasks.

Pre-Move Walk Through 
If you really want to get as much of that deposit back as humanly possible, there is one final step that most people don’t want to make – you should ask your landlord or rental agent for a pre-move-out walkthrough. Some companies perform these internally, others with the owner or tenant, and some don't complete any walk-throughs, using third party services.
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