Unless you find a stellar move-in special, it can feel like you’re just giving money away when you remit your security deposit. Try thinking of it as a no-interest savings plan for the next place in which you’ll move. It’s a kitchen cookie jar of dollars that you’ll forget about until it’s time to get it back. Ensure that you’ll receive every bit by (1) documenting the condition of your apartment, (2) maintaining your space, and (3) communicating with your complex manager.
You know that little checklist used to denote your apartment’s condition? The one you usually ignore with everything else you have to do moving in? Use it! If possible, have your landlord walk the space with you as you fill it out, so that you can be in agreement about what the terms “good” and “fair” and “poor” mean. Make a thorough inspection and take a detailed inventory. The kitchen linoleum isn’t just “damaged” – it has “cracks near the baseboard” or dark circular stains” – ugh.
Check the following areas, and add them to your list if needed:
-linoleum or tile condition
-countertop and backsplash
-sink (scratches, chips, etc.)
-functionality of all appliances, including water pressure
-sink and countertops
-mirrors and towel rods
-tile (floor and shower)
-toilet tank and seat
-presence of mold or leaks
Bedroom and Living Areas
-carpet or hardwood condition
-closet doors and hinges
-cracks or discoloration in paint or ceiling
-windows and sills, blinds if included
-ceiling fans, air conditioner, and heater
-absence of switch plates or outlets
Take photographs or videotape during the initial inspection. Have time/date stamped double-prints made and send one set to your landlord with the completed checklist. Note any problems on the back of each. Keep the second set to turn in on moving-out day. If there are any items that your landlord can or should fix, address them in your first month. Even if the crack is already in the ceiling, it may be exacerbated by upstairs neighbors tromping around. Get things fixed while they’re still manageable. Ask your landlord for a realistic timeline for pending projects. Hold off on any home improvement, like painting the bedroom, until you’re sure you’ll like your new digs and until any outstanding issues have been resolved.
The best way to preserve your deposit is to treat your rental like a property that you own. Though “normal wear and tear” is a subjective term, your common sense and a little pre-planning will keep you out of trouble. Clean messes as soon as they happen. Club soda will take out a world of stains! Put dishes under potted plants to keep the water from staining the floors. Use doormats to preserve your carpets. Take creative endeavors (like tie dying and home brewing) out on the balcony or over to a friend’s house. Use candle holders, coasters, and placemats to avoid scratches and stains.
Even if you’re careful, you’re apt to have a few more concerns if you smoke or own pets. Though you may pay a higher initial deposit, it doesn’t relieve you of the responsibility of putting the place back to its prior condition. Check your lease to see if you are responsible for painting or carpet cleaning in either instance. If things just wear out due to regular use, you aren’t liable. If they are abused – well, you break it, you buy it.
Though enthusiasm is geared toward where you’re going, not where you were, take some time to clean. Use disposable products. Though not environmentally sound, it will prevent you from having to pack them all up. If you have a roommate, the apartment condition carefully whether one or both of you are moving. Don’t be left holding the bag for a roomie’s careless cigarette burn.
You may have to wait up to 30 days for a refund, so be patient. Be a conscientious renter, and you’ll see your whole deposit back, just in time for brand new digs.