Whether your lease is up and you’re moving on to a nicer place or you’re breaking lease because you’re so desperate to leave behind the cockroaches and mildew of your present apartment, moving out is a major undertaking. It’s also a big personal step and can be very stressful to you as an individual. To avoid causing yourself further headaches than absolutely necessary, make sure to plan your move carefully and communicate successfully with your landlord about the moving process.
Giving notice is crucial, especially if you’re breaking your lease. Even if you’re not, it’s still crucial to let your landlord know that you’re actually moving out when your lease is up. That way, your landlord can not only prepare by trying to find a new tenant for your apartment, but can also potentially assist you in finding services to help you clean or move out of your apartment. This might help alleviate some of the stress of moving. Choose a specific day by which you’ll definitely be out of your apartment and notify your landlord you’ll be out by that time. Then, motivate yourself to have everything done two days early. This will give you extra time to deal with any emergencies that might arise at the last minute.
As always, communication is crucial—you’ll need to keep your landlord updated throughout the moving process, so he or she will be able to show the apartment to new tenants and guarantee a move-in date to the incoming individuals. Being flaky about your move-out date is not only an inconvenience for your landlord, it might also cost you some money—especially if you’re not out by the first of the month, when the new tenants show up with a moving van full of furniture. Changing apartments is not something to mess around with, so be sure you can leave by the date you set for yourself.
This should go without saying, but you’ll need to actually get all—yes, all—of your stuff out of the apartment before taking off for good. It’s not the responsibility of your landlord or the next tenant to get rid of all the junk you don’t want to take with you to your future place of residence. If you don’t want something, at least haul it to the curb or dumpster, or just advertise it on the craigslist for your city—you’ll be amazed what people will go to great lengths to pick up and even pay for. No matter how great your car (or, if you’re lucky, truck) is, you’ll likely need to hire a moving company and/or some strong friends with trucks to help you move any significant amount of furniture.
If you’re not moving furniture, get rid of it, or get a contract allowing you to leave it behind. Even if you meet the people who’ll be living in your apartment next, and they indicate an interest in your furniture, obtain a written agreement signed by the tenants and your landlords that allows you to leave certain items of furniture behind. Otherwise, you might be faced with extensive charges from your landlord if he or she had to pay people to take out and dispose of your stuff.
Your landlord can usually issue a cleaning fee if you leave your apartment excessively messy. Since messiness is a subjective issue, it’s better to be on the safe (i.e., clean) side and tidy up as much as possible. If you’ve been a total slob for your tenancy in the apartment, this might be rough, but if you’ve maintained decent cleanliness levels, it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle.
If possible, get as many of your belongings out of the apartment prior to cleaning. This will not only make it easier to clean, since you’ll have fewer objects to work around, but it’ll also help you get a more thorough clean and avoid being surprised by fees charged
by your landlord, who discovered a huge stain under the rug you left behind in the living room. If you want to get your deposit back, try to leave your apartment even cleaner than you found it when you moved in. That may not be possible, but it’s a good goal.
Now’s the time to own up to any damage you caused to the apartment while you were there. You might be able to get away with a temporary cover-up that will pass a quick inspection, but eventually the new tenant will uncover what you did and refuse to take responsibility. Rather than risk a messy fight in the future, simply allow for whatever you might have done to your apartment to be set right. When your landlord finds out, you’re probably in for a messy lawsuit to recover damages, not to mention a drastic decrease in your future desirability as a tenant. If you have damage to repair, do make sure to hire competent workers who’ll do a good repair job; you don’t want to be stuck with bills from both the construction crew and your landlord. You might also work directly with your apartment complex’s maintenance crew, since they’re already on-site and equipped with the tools to do the job.
It’s a good idea to have some record of the condition your apartment was in when you moved out. That way, your landlord can’t accuse you of making the place any dirtier or more damaged than you actually did. It’s also important to have a record of the condition the place was in when you moved in—but of course, if you didn’t take care of that initially, you’ll be hard-pressed to do it now. What you can do is make absolutely sure you won’t be charged for damages you definitely didn’t inflict. Once you’ve moved all your stuff out and done a thorough cleaning, take pictures of the apartment to prove you left it in an acceptable condition. You’ll probably also want to walk through the apartment with your landlord before you leave, just to show off the condition of the place and hand over the keys. This will not only show the landlord how you left your apartment, but also prove that you didn’t make any modifications to it after surrendering all access.
Get your deposit back
Depending on the terms of your lease, you should be entitled to get your security deposit back when you move out. As long as you haven’t wrought excessive and irreparable havoc in your apartment, and as long as you’re honest about what you’ve done, you should be able to get most of your deposit back. Repainting and carpet cleaning are costs you shouldn’t have to cover unless you caused undue damage to your apartment. Unless the carpet is stained and ripped up from your devilish pets, or the walls are covered with color from your late-night painting frenzies, it’s your landlord’s decision to redo aspects of the apartment, and you shouldn’t have to pay for your landlord’s desire to improve the condition of the living space to attract future tenants.
Some landlords will hold on to the security deposit unless you take steps to get it back. Start out by simply sending a written request by certified mail with return receipt requested. If there’s no response, you might look into going to small claims court to get your deposit back. Depending on the size of your deposit, this may not be worth the hassle, but you are legally entitled to get your deposit back unless you’ve caused damage so extensive that the money’s needed for repairs. This is where the photographs of the pristine apartment you left behind come in handy—they’ll demonstrate that you didn’t do enough damage to merit the seizure of your deposit.
Pay it off
In some lease agreements, the security deposit can be used toward the last month’s rent. This is an option you may want to explore—though you may not be able to, depending on the terms of your lease and the size of your deposit. Ask your landlord if your deposit can be used toward rent or not. If not, you’ll still need to pay your rent through your term of residency—not doing so will cause more grief and eventually cost more money than it’ll save you.
Moving out doesn’t have to be a hassle unless you make it one by not planning ahead. Pick a move-out date and stick to it, make sure all your belongings are moved and all apartment surfaces are cleaned, and you’ll be good to go to your new place, with security deposit in hand and a rental record as spotless as the apartment you left behind.