Renter Tip: Get Your Security Deposit Back

Over the years, you’ve likely heard a story or two about security deposits being withheld for strange or unknown reasons. Though it’s not that common, it’s also important to protect yourself — and your money – to the best of your ability. Read through the tips below that will help to ensure that you get your security deposit back at the end of your lease.

Do Your Research. Google the apartment community, the property manager, and/or the landlord, and see if there are an inordinate amount of complaints. The best defense is a good offense, and knowing this information ahead of time can help you choose the right place to rent.

Take Pictures. On move-in day, take pictures of any noticeable marks, stains, or anything else that you think you could be held responsible for when you move out. This will ensure that you won't get blamed for them once you move out!

Read The Fine Print. Be aware of what your lease says, so that you don’t violate it. Too many renters fail to read the "fine print", and then lose out on their security deposit in the end because they overlooked what they would be held responsible for. Read your lease cover-to-cover, and ask any questions that you have prior to signing.

Keep It Clean. Your rental is your home, so treat it well. Just because you don’t own it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take some responsibility for its maintenance. Clean up scuffs and spills quickly, and take extra care if you have a pet.

Schedule A Walk-Through. When it’s time to move out, clean your apartment well, and schedule a walk-through with your property manager or landlord. After the walk through, request that they sign an agreement stating that you left the unit in fair condition.

Follow-up. If you still have not received your security deposit back 30 days after moving out, follow-up with your landlord. If they continue to withhold it without reason or cause, you can always seek legal assistance. The reality is that landlords are required by law to return security deposits in a certain number of days, with interest, so check to see what your state law says.

Hopefully you’ll never have your deposit withheld from you without cause, but it’s best to remain vigilant to ensure that you don’t set yourself up for a problem. In general, scrupulous landlords know the law and will do their best to get it back to you.