To get the most back from your apartment security deposit, you have to remember that you’re living in “borrowed” space, and it’s your responsibility to “return” the borrowed space in as close to original condition as you can manage. At the same time, as a borrower, you have rights, too, and you must make sure that your landlord is not taking advantage of you when it comes time to collect.
Review Your Lease Carefully
The first step to getting the most back from your security deposit is to review your lease or contract carefully before you sign the dotted line. Look for terms that discuss your responsibility as a tenant, such as:
- Wear and tear – Does the lease go into detail as to what can be defined as “wear or tear?” If not, ask the landlord to add an addendum explaining the term in writing.
- Deadlines – Many leases include a deadline of 30 to 60 days’ notice prior to moving out, otherwise the landlord gets to keep the entirety of the deposit. The time period is usually nonnegtoiable, but it can’t hurt to ask if you think the deadline is an unreasonable period of time. Just make sure any changes are written into the lease and recorded, not exchanged verbally.
- Security deposit deadline – Your landlord will be required, by law, to return your security deposit to you within 14 to 30 days after you move out, depending on the state you live in. Make sure these terms are included in your lease.
If you have already signed your lease, it may be too late to negotiate any points, but it’s not too late to familiarize yourself with the terms to which you have agreed. Review your lease carefully before you give your notice to your landlord.
Be Proactive When You Move In
Before you move in your furniture, you should take a dated video or pictures of the condition of the apartment when you move in. Highlight any stains or damage you see, so that you can prove later that you were not responsible for the wear and tear.
Know Your Responsibility as a Tenant
You have the responsibility to return the apartment in virtually the same condition it was when you received it. Before you move out, take the extra time to give your apartment a thorough cleaning, and (only after clearing it with your landlord) make any minor repairs to walls or permanent fixtures that have damage for which you were responsible. This will result in the maximum security deposit.
Give the Proper Amount of Notice
In order to get the maximum amount of your security deposit back, you usually must give 30 to 60 days’ notice prior to moving out of your apartment. If you fail to do so, you will forfeit your deposit.
Understand Reasonable Wear and Tear
If your landlord deducts part of your security deposit for “wear and tear” to any permanent fixture of the apartment, such as a dishwasher, refrigerator, or washing machine, you may not be responsible. You are responsible for abnormal damage caused by an accident, but you should not be held responsible if you used the fixtures correctly and responsibly (as everything is subject to reasonable wear and tear over a period of use).
Be proactive, be knowledgeable, and be responsible as a tenant, and you will be certain to get the most back from your deposit.