A few years ago, I moved out of an overpriced apartment in nice neighborhood north of downtown Cincinnati and became a homeowner. On moving day, I spent the afternoon cleaning the rental unit from top to bottom and making sure to replace bulbs, batteries, filters, and anything else that was outlined in the lease. A few weeks later, I received a letter in the mail along with a check for the security deposit.
According to the letter, the property manager claimed the apartment had not been cleaned and the blinds in the kitchen were damaged. As a result, only 75% of my security deposit would be returned. In all honesty, the apartment was cleaner when I left than when I moved in and I never once opened the blinds in the kitchen in the year I was living there (the view was the of the building next door). With no proof of my work, there was nothing I could do.
To help you avoid losing your security deposit, we’ve shared a few tips from the money-savvy folks at Forbes Magazine. Before you move-in to that new rental, give them a read.
- Take photos or video at move-in: Take a walk through your apartment with your landlord and take photos of video of every inch. Include wide shots as well close-ups and be sure to capture anything that is damaged. Then, e-mail the files to your landlord that day so you have time-stamped documentation of the condition of the property. Your landlord will appreciate the gesture and you’ll be able to prove the rental unit is in move-in condition when you decide to leave.
- Give ample written notice before move-out: When moving out, be sure to meet the requirements as spelled out in the lease agreement. Typically, it will specify the amount of notice as well as acceptable forms – e-mail, letter, etc. – of notice. If the lease doesn’t specify, ask your landlord.
- Don’t obstruct showings: If the landlord is showing your unit to a prospective tenant, don’t get in the way or make things difficult. Don’t insist you be home for every showing, don’t change the locks, and don’t leave the apartment a mess. Some leases include clauses that state the landlord can charge you if you’re “unnecessarily obstructive.” The easier you are to work with, the better your chances of getting your deposit back and a good reference.
- Ask for the master paint color: Fill any holes you may have put in the wall from hanging pictures or a television and ask your landlord for the master paint color so you can match the existing color perfectly.
- Clean the carpets: Prevent extra wear and tear on the carpets by laying an entry mat and the front door and vacuuming regularly. Before moving out, rent a steam cleaner or hire a carpet cleaner to deep clean the carpets.
- Don’t leave anything behind: It should go without saying, but take everything with you when you leave and don’t leave personal possessions behind. You may be charged extra rent or other fees for leaving things behind and also run the risk of dealing with an eviction which could show up on your credit report.