Forking over a security deposit, sometimes equivalent to one month's rent, is a necessary evil — especially when there's no guarantee you'll get it back. It's a considerable amount of money when you factor in that most apartment lease terms are relatively short (anywhere from three to 12 months), and you'll have to shell out yet another deposit for your next place.
Also keep in mind that landlords can charge you for repairs that exceed your deposit amount. Therefore, it's important for you to know what the standard repairs are and learn your landlord's expectations for the condition of the apartment when you return the keys. And, get it in writing!
Here are six ways to ensure you get your apartment deposit back.
1. Talk to Your Landlord
The first thing you can do is have a conversation with your landlord. Do this early on — at the signing of your lease, if possible. Minor repairs should be expected, but clear up any other expectations. In most cases, things like carpeting is a standard replacement, but smaller landlords might want to abate the expense by taking carpet cleaning fees or replacement costs out of your deposit, where it will cost a lot more than if you were to do it yourself.
Read More: 7 Ways to Rent An Apartment With Bad Credit
2. Clean the Unit
It's not only polite but common courtesy to leave the apartment in the same condition you found it. Be sure to clean and wipe down appliances, including the stove and refrigerator, and take out your trash.
Don't leave structural damage, like large holes, destroyed tiles, and exposed fixtures. Small holes that are left behind after hanging curtains and pictures are okay and you shouldn't worry about those. They key is to get the apartment in as close condition as possible to how it was given to you.
4. Resolve Any Maintenance Issues
If something is broken in the apartment, have it fixed prior to your departure. For instance, although that leak under the sink that you failed to report wasn't your fault, it caused the cabinets to rot and now they need replacing. The landlord could charge you for this if it's not discovered until after you moved out.
5. Remove Any Add-Ons
If you've put up partitions or walls, even with the landlord's consent, have them removed even if you think it's an upgrade to the apartment (unless otherwise expressed). Your lease contract more than likely states that these types of structural changes will be removed at the tenant's expense.
6. Bring Back the Original Paint Color
If you're going to paint, be sure to change it back to the original paint color when you leave. If you do not, the landlord has the right to charge you for this. It will cost more than if you were to do it yourself or contract a painter. Also, ask what the original color is. It's very important that you don't have the walls painted off-white just because off-white paint is on sale, when in fact, the original color was white. Making that mistake once cost me $400 from my deposit.
7. Take Photos
Upon your departure, take photos to document the condition of the apartment. This is evidence against any future claims that there was significant damage to justify the withholding of a security deposit. And basically, when you leave, the apartment should be in move-in ready condition with the exception of needing a thorough cleaning.