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10 Tips for Getting Your Apartment Security Deposit Back

Whether you’ve just moved into your first apartment or you’ve given your landlord notice because your lease is ending soon, knowing how to get your security deposit back should be top of mind. Here are ten apartment move-in and move-out tips that can help you get your deposit back!

Maintain Open Communication

Throughout your lease, try to keep up good communication with your landlord. Be clear and concise in your communications, and keep it professional. Talk with your landlord before you make any small repairs or if you want to change anything in your rental property—even if you think it’s minor. Checking in regularly with your landlord by phone or email is key for maintaining a good relationship and getting your security deposit back.

Review Your Lease

It’s important to look over your lease both when you move into and move out of your rental home. The lease should outline the terms and conditions of getting your security deposit back in its terminating clause. The amount of days it takes to get your deposit back varies by state, but it’s generally around 30 days from the date that the tenant has moved out of the property. If you move out before your lease is done—or if you break any big rules on your lease—it may result in your landlord keeping your deposit. Most states allow landlords to keep a tenant’s security deposit if the tenant breaks their lease agreement or voids the termination clause.

Provide Move-Out Notice

If you signed a year-long lease and want to move out, you should notify your landlord about 30 days prior to the date you want to terminate your lease. Although the rules for terminating your lease differ from state to state, this kind of notice is standard for many landlords. For month-to-month lease agreements, you should also give your landlord about 30 days notice. If you don’t give proper notice, you may have to pay at least one additional month’s worth of rent, finish out the term of your lease, and pay an early termination fee.

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Take Photos & Videos

When moving out of your apartment, be sure to take clear photos and videos of every room with a date stamp. This includes storage spaces, closets, and outside areas like balconies. Similar to how you should always note the condition of your apartment when you move in, documenting how your apartment looks at the time of moving out can help protect you from costly damages incurred by someone else.

Repair Any Damage

Though avoiding damage altogether is the best way to get your security deposit back, if you do have damages, you’ll want to make sure they’ve been repaired before you move out. Common apartment repairs include appliance tune-ups, water or air leaks, dripping faucets, furnace repairs, and electrical work. In most cases, your landlord or rental property management company will have a maintenance staff or contractors who take care of this work via submitted request. Easier fixes like patching holes in the wall or painting a room back to its original color can be handled by yourself, provided you have your landlord’s written consent.

Clean Your Space

Make sure to do one last deep clean of your apartment home before moving out. Clear out and wipe down appliances, scrub sinks and showers, clean toilets, mop or vacuum floors, and dust ceiling fans and blinds. By ensuring your home is as spotless as it was the day you moved in, you’ll be more likely to get your security deposit back from your landlord.

Ask for a Final Walkthrough

Before you leave, ask your landlord if they can do a final inspection of your rental unit. If they’re able to conduct a walkthrough with you, make sure to point out specific areas of concern, including any damage that was in the unit prior to your move-in date and any issues that you requested to be fixed that were not. Again, this is where photo and video documentation of your rental apartment can come in handy.

Return the Keys

After you move out, contact your landlord and set up a time to return your keys. You should find out how they would like to receive keys, whether it’s in person or by mail. If you don’t return your keys, you may be charged a replacement fee for each key you take with you, as well as for any locks that need to be changed.

Leave a Forwarding Address

Even though your landlord likely won’t return your apartment security deposit the same day you move out, it’s best to leave them with an accurate forwarding address. After the final inspection has been completed, your landlord or rental management company will be able to forward the security deposit to you. You can expect to receive the security deposit back within 30 days after the move-out date, though this can vary state by state.

Know Your Rights

Understanding your rights as a renter can help with getting your security deposit back. A landlord isn’t allowed to hold onto your security deposit without giving you a valid reason. If they do, you can request an itemized list. If some of your deposit is withheld, you’re entitled to written documentation of the damage it’s being used for. Different states have laws that impact how much a landlord can hold onto your deposit. There are deadlines for landlords returning security deposits that vary from 14 days up to 60 days.


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