Secure Your Deposit
Security Deposits are a large part of the expense of moving. Since they usually equal one month or more in rent, it is worth taking a few precautions to ensure you get your deposit back when you move out.
- Check with your local Fair Housing authority or use the search terms “tenants’ rights” and your state’s name to find resources on-line. Know what your rights and obligations are as a tenant. Read the Fair Housing Act.
- Read your lease carefully before you sign and plunk down that deposit. Are there any specific clauses that address your responsibility for maintenance of the property, condition at move in, condition at move out or terms for ending the lease? Not meeting these requirements can cause you to incur expenses that will be charged against the deposit with the balance, if any, still due to the landlord.
- Document (in writing, in pictures or video) the condition of the property at move-in. You will be required to leave it in the same condition or better to receive your deposit back. Note any wear or tear or damages. If a screen is torn or a tile is cracked, you want to make certain you will not receive a bill for the repair when you move out. Report any items that require repair to the landlord in the manner outlined in the lease agreement.
- Be a good tenant. Respect the property and your neighbors. Keep your unit and any areas you use clean and in good condition. Make all rent payments on or before the due date.
- When you leave, give proper notice in writing. Follow the requirements for termination in the lease or give at least 30 days notice of your intent to move out. Set a date when you will have the unit vacant and available for inspection by the landlord. Please be aware that if you are breaking the lease early, either by your choice or through eviction, you may still be liable for the months remaining on the lease.
- When timing your notice, you will want to make certain that your final date of possession of the unit will be prior to any date on which you would incur another months’ rent. So if rent is due on the first of each month and your lease expires on the 30th of May, make certain to give notice at least 30 days prior to June 1st. Allow adequate time to schedule a final walk through while you still have possession of the property in case there is a condition the landlord requires you to fix prior to surrendering occupancy in order to receive your full deposit. So in the example of a lease that ends May 30th, remove all of your belongings and clean the unit so that a walk through can occur on the 27th or 28th. This would leave you a couple extra days to address any issues that arise in the walk through.
- Make certain that all property is removed from your unit, your storage area and any other area to which you have access. Clean the unit (including refrigerator and oven) and repair any minor damage, replace burned out bulbs, patch any nick or holes from pictures hung on walls, etc. The landlord can charge you for any repair beyond normal wear and tear.
- Document the condition of the unit once all of your possessions are removed. Preferably with pictures or video.