How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

Moving out of an old apartment is exciting…but it can be a stressful time, too. On top of all the other things you have going on, one thought will definitely be on your mind:

I sure hope I get my security deposit back.

Let’s set one thing straight:

Getting your security deposit back isn’t about hoping.

It’s not about wishful thinking.

It’s about knowing exactly what your former landlord will want to see when they open the apartment door after you move out.

Consider the following if you want to end your lease on good terms, and increase your chances of getting your entire security deposit back.

Document Everything When You Move In

The process of moving out actually begins before you even move in.

When you move into a new apartment, your landlord may or may not give you a checklist of things to take note of – from small issues like scratches or dings, to major problems like leaky faucets or broken appliances.

In the excitement of moving into a new place, it can be easy to rush through this list if everything looks “good enough.” But this is exactly what can come back to bite you years later. Sure, you know the toilet always had that crack in it – but if you didn’t document it when you moved in, you might be held responsible for it.

To avoid all this, make note of every little problem you see immediately upon moving in. Take picture. Heck, make a video while you do your first walk-through.

You’ll thank yourself years later when your landlord claims you caused damage that had actually been there way before you moved in.

Wear and Tear…Or Major Damage?

Speaking of damage:

You need to know the difference between normal wear and tear and outright destruction of property.

This one’s a little subjective, as it largely depends on your landlord’s outlook. But let’s assume your landlord understands that things deteriorate over time.

But that also doesn’t excuse you, the tenant, from negligence.

For example, if the seal on the apartment’s windows has started falling apart, it’s most likely not your fault. But if you were trying to fix it and ended up breaking the entire frame…that’s on you.

When moving out, know what you should – and should not be responsible for.

Make a Checklist

Okay, now we’re getting into the actual process of moving out.

Just like when you moved in, your landlord may or may not give you a checklist of things to take care of before you hand in your keys.

If they don’t, make one yourself.

Consider everything you can possibly think of that is within your power to fix or, at the very least, that you should notify your landlord of.

Make this list before you actually start doing any work. This will keep you on track and ensure you don’t overlook anything when the apartment starts to look “good enough.”

Make Repairs

Once you know what needs to be fixed, it’s time to get to work.

Again: know what’s within your power to fix. Don’t mess with the electricity, plumbing, or structural aspects of the apartment. Instead, focus on cosmetics.

Patch up any holes and dings in the wall.

Return walls to their original color.

Replace broken shelving or door and window frames.

Chances are, the cost of making these repairs pales in comparison to your full security deposit. Keep that in mind if you have to shell out a hundred bucks or so to fix up your old place.

Clean Deeply

Once you’ve made repairs, it’s time to clean.

And when I say clean, I mean clean.

Air the place out.

Sweep and vacuum spots you never even glanced at while living there.

Scrub the walls, floors, bathroom fixtures and kitchen appliances completely.

This is where you should go above and beyond. Your landlord will likely be hiring a cleaning service after you move out anyway, but putting in the extra effort could earn you some brownie points when your landlord takes a final walk-through.

Stay for the Walk-through

Once you’re ready to hand in your keys, there’s one more thing you need to do:

Accompany your former landlord while they assess the apartment for damages.

This will help mitigate any discrepancies between your checklist assessment and theirs – whether on the spot or later on.

Take care to approach this final encounter not as a way of covering yourself, but as a way of showing the landlord that you care about the property. Show them you want to make sure you’ve done everything you can to prepare the apartment for its next inhabitants.

A small gesture like this could go a long way to getting your security deposit back.