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How to Get Your Deposit Back When You Move

August 20th, 2013 - 10:23 AM


How to get your deposit back

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Tips for Getting a Deposit Back

You’re moving soon. You’ve packed up, and you’re getting ready to clean your apartment because you want to get your security deposit back. Before you rush to your landlord demanding a check, walk through these tips. You may have to do more than dusting and vacuuming to get a deposit back. Make sure you know the expectations set out in your rental agreement, take time to thoroughly clean, and know your rights. There are actual laws in each state that outline the procedures for getting your deposit back – from how long your landlord has to return your deposit, to how they withhold money. The most important rule to remember when requesting a deposit is to be respectful. Make sure you communicate clearly and politely to your landlord during your dealings. Let’s take a look at how to get your deposit back, step by step!

How to Get Your Deposit Back

  • Take a look at your lease. Your rental agreement will outline expectations when it comes to moving out. There may be an automatic cleaning fee withheld from your deposit, or maybe a fee for changing the locks. My last apartment automatically withheld $75 to change the locks and clean the carpets (so I knew I didn’t have to clean the carpets when I moved).
  • Know your rights. Tenant rights vary in each state, outlining the expectations set by the state for landlords and tenants. Click here to check the tenant rights in your state. Or check your Attorney General’s website for more information on your state.
  • Give notice. Give your landlord notice that you are moving. Check your lease for the required notifications. You may have to give a 30 day notice. If you fail to comply with your lease, you may forfeit your deposit.
  • Be present for an inspection. Ask your landlord to come do an interim inspection on your apartment after you’ve cleaned it. Ask them to point out any issues that would require additional attention and money from your deposit.
  • Fix/clean any issues. Take care of the issues your landlord pointed out.
  • Document the process. Keep receipts and take photos of the cleaning and repairs. If you buy paint to fix a messed up wall, keep the receipt. When you are all finished, take detailed photos so you can show the condition of the apartment.
  • Discuss any withholdings. Talk with your landlord about any withholdings. They are allowed to withhold money for any rent or bills you didn’t pay, along with necessary repairs or cleaning. However, note that the repairs may not be all on you. If you moved in with new carpet, and ruined it, you may be responsible for replacing the carpet to new. However, if the carpet was used and needed replacing when you moved in, you should’t be responsible for the entire repair cost. If the walls were freshly painted when you moved in, you may have to pay to have them freshly painted again based on your wear to them. However, normal wear and use of the apartment should not be charged to you. In most states, you are entitled to a detailed, itemized list of charges taken out of your deposit – so talk with your landlord to find out what they are withholding from your deposit.
  • Leave your address. Your landlord will need to know where to send your deposit.
  • Contact an attorney with any issues. If you feel like money was withheld without reason, or you would like to dispute the charges, an attorney can advise you on the state laws and help direct you on your next steps. In most states, you can go to small claims court for deposit disputes. But be sure to ask yourself if the money is worth it. If you are quarreling over $50, it might not be worth your time and stress to go to court. However, it’s up to you and your attorney.

If you follow the terms in your lease and leave the place in good shape, you should be in good shape to get a deposit back. Check out these tips for cleaning your apartment like a pro, and read about how to clean your fridge and how to remove carpet stains.

If you have questions about getting a deposit back, just leave us a comment. We’ll be happy to help in any way we can. Do you have tips for making the process easier? Leave us a comment to share!