Property Management Blog

How to get your security deposit back

System - Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Fill out an apartment rental inspection checklist
Fill out the move-in checklist your landlord provides for you.  In addition to checking off all boxes — from ensuring everything is working to noting any blemishes and marks — bring a camera and take pictures or videos of your apartment before you unpack your boxes. Pay extra attention to anything that looks less than stellar. With more documentation, your landlord can’t claim you caused the damage. Once you’ve filled out the checklist, make a signed and dated copy of it for you and your landlord.

Take pictures the day you move out
Document how pristine you left the place: Take photos of every room and surface therein that are delivered to your landlord same day. If you can’t send them via email (or don’t think it’s necessary), don’t sweat it. Most digital images have time-stamp data included in the file if you later need to prove the date and time they were taken. This way, the crazy keg party your landlord throws the day after you move out can’t be attributed to you.

Read your lease carefully

Your lease will tell you if you need to give notice, and how much time is required. Usually, if your lease has an end date, you can simply move out on or before that day, but some leases automatically extend. If yours does, you’ll need to give notice, or else you could be at risk of losing your security deposit for breaking your new lease. If you are on a month-to-month lease, you’ll also need to give written notice, usually 30 days before you plan to move out. Get a receipt from your landlord that your notice was submitted on time.

Start organizing and reassembling your place
Spend some time putting the property back in its original condition:
Patch any holes in the walls where you hung posters, pictures, etc.
Repaint the walls their original color (unless your new colors have been landlord-approved)
Fix any hanging cabinets or loose hinges that might be from general wear and tear
Deep clean the refrigerator, oven and dishwasher
Sweep, vacuum and mop all floors once you have all your furniture moved out
Wipe down and clean all surfaces on the final walkthrough before taking pictures

Request a final apartment walk-through
Ask your landlord to inspect the place with you present (after you have cleaned and fixed it up). Keep in mind that landlords do not have to agree to do a walk-through with you. Many landlords prefer to do the walk-through alone and at their leisure, to ensure you didn’t damage the place beyond normal wear and tear. Regardless, they should still be able to provide you with a full list of any damages and the charges to fix them.

Final steps 
Yes, you should drop off the keys, but you should also be sure to leave a forwarding address. And if you’d like the security deposit returned somewhere other than your forwarding address, make sure to leave that with your landlord too. Let your landlord know where to send the security deposit.