How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

One of the biggest disputes among renters and landlords is the security deposit. Almost all apartment management companies or landlords require one. If a problem does arise, it usually involves the renter receiving less than the amount they thought they were entitled to.  Let’s dive into scenarios and common questions about security deposits. Specifically we will attempt to answer the question of how renters can get their entire deposit back quickly. 

What is a Security Deposit

First of all, the security deposit is your money. Its purpose is solely to be used against any damage that you cause during the rental. 

For example, if you damaged anything inside the unit that needs to be repaired, this will be deducted out of the security deposit amount.  It is not to be used for anything else. 

Some states actually require the landlord to deposit the money into a separate account. They must also report the name of the bank, and the account number to the lessee. 

Common Misconceptions 

Contrary to popular belief, unless it’s clearly stated in your lease, you don’t have to clean your apartment home before you move-out. Your landlord cannot charge you because you didn’t dust the blinds or vacuum the carpet. But they can charge you for leaving trash on the premises.

Some renters falsely believe this, and will spend cleaning beneath the appliances and scrubbing the toilets. Our professionals recommend that if you spend time doing anything, that you make repairs to any damages caused directly by you or your guests. 

Your security deposit is not supposed to be used to pay your last month’s rent. If you leave your rental home without paying your last month’s rent, you won’t receive a refund. In fact your landlord may come after you in court to get the last month’s rent you didn’t pay. 

Proper Uses of the Security Deposit

State law will dictate what sorts of repairs you will be liable for, and other items that should not apply. Remember landlords realize that there will be typical “wear and tear” as a result of tenants inhabiting and using the rental home.  This is not classified as damaged due to abuse. 

 Let’s go over some examples that will show the differences between normal wear and damage. 

Normal wear and tear might be:

  • A few stains in the carpet 
  • Faded blinds from direct sunlight
  • Thin scratches in the wood floors
  • Small holes in the walls
  • Finish beginning to wear away from knobs and handles
  • Cracks in ceiling from the foundation shifting

Here are some examples of damage that a landlord can subtract from the security deposit:

  • Punch holes in the walls
  • Heavy and numerous stains in the carpeting
  • Deep scratches in the wood flooring
  • Malfunctioning dryer due to tenant not changing filter
  • Cracked mirrors or windows
  • Chipped tile in the bathroom or kitchen

While the landlord understands that the condition of the accommodation will certainly be worn out after everyday use, they don’t expect to have to pay for repairs. If you or a guest of yours damages the apartment, after you move-out they will deduct money from your security deposit. 

Schedule a Walk-Through Before Move-Out

Checklists should have been provided to after you submitted your apartment application,  but before you took possession of the unit. This is where you had the opportunity to list any defects. Remember to take photos as documentation. This will eliminate confusion.

Before you hand over the keys to the landlord, you want to schedule a walk-through with them. They will inspect the entire rental space while you accompany them. They should be able to tell you what damages, if any you will be responsible for. 

If there are no damages, then you can rest easy. Just make sure you don’t leave any trash on the premises and move-out. 

If there are damages, then you will have a couple options at this point. 

  1. Let the landlord make the repairs. These will be deducted from your security deposit. Some states will require that the landlord provide receipts. If the damages exceed the total security deposit, you will be required to pay. 
  2. You could potentially make the repairs. If you are certain that your workmanship will be sufficient, you might be able to save yourself from any future charges.
  3. If you don’t agree with the damages you may dispute them, but this is not the easiest method.

When to Expect Your Refund 

So you moved out and handed over the keys. Remember that you also need to include a forwarding address. The landlord cannot be held responsible for holding onto your deposit if you don’t include the forwarding address. 

Most states dictate by law that the landlord must return your funds used for the security deposit within 30 days. If not, you can take them to small claims court.

Any damages should be itemized. If you live in a state like Massachusetts, the landlord must provide copies of the receipts as proof. 

So there you have it, that is how to get your security deposit back after you move out. Make sure to leave your past home clean and in best shape possible!

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