How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

by Steffi Cook | Updated: Aug 20, 2020

A security deposit can be a substantial amount of money. For that reason, you want to get as much of it back as you can. But what can you do to make that happen? It starts right at the beginning. Whether you’ve just moved in or will be moving out soon, there are things you can do to help get your security deposit back.

Know what can be deducted

There are a lot of rules about what a security deposit can be used for and what it cannot. In general, it's there to pay for damage that was done to the rental beyond the usual wear and tear. What exactly that means can vary greatly, but the main goal is always to keep damages done to a minimum.

Document the original state of everything

Don’t just fill out the inspection form your landlord gives you. You should fill it out, but there’s more you can do. Take pictures or video of places in your new home where you see any damage or wear. Send these pictures to your landlord along with the inspection form so that, if a dispute comes up later, you have proof that you weren’t the cause of this damage or wear.

Report small issues before they become big ones

Small problems tend to get worse with time, so make sure they get fixed early. Routine maintenance like that costs nothing, while large damages later can be taken out of your security deposit when you move out.

Clean thoroughly

This should be obvious, but you’ll want to make sure things are as clean as possible before moving out. Having to clean or fix anything will likely get taken out of your deposit, so make sure things are clean before moving out.

Check with local laws

Your state, county or city may have specific laws on what can be done with the security deposit. Make sure that you know what’s in these laws since they can help you greatly if a dispute comes up over the amount of money taken out of the deposit and what that money was used for. If you have the law on your side, use it.

See the place from the perspective of the next resident

When you’re moving out, think about it from the perspective of someone moving into the apartment. Try to restore things to the condition you found them in as much as you can. The better it would look as someone moving in, the more likely you are to get your security deposit back.

Leave a forwarding address with the landlord

Without a forwarding address, they won’t know where to send the money. Make sure your landlord has your forwarding address and there’ll be fewer complications in getting your deposit to you on time.

Walkthrough and document everything with the landlord

As the last step when moving out, walk through the empty apartment with the landlord or property manager. Document everything that’s said and pointed out as an issue with the place. Having it in writing will help a lot down the line if there’s a disagreement.

Negotiate with the landlord before going to court

The last resort is small claims court, but be open to negotiating before them. A phone call or meeting can resolve the issue or lead to a compromise well before the courts need to get involved. Stay professional and courteous and hopefully it doesn’t need to go any further.

There’s no way to guarantee you’ll get your entire deposit back, but every little bit helps. Follow these steps and you should be well on your way to getting more of the security deposit from your rental back.

Categories: Renters

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