Do you dread approaching your landlord to ask about getting your deposit back? Here are some tips to help you get through the process as painlessly as possible, and leave with the money you deserve.
Read your lease ~
Really, this is something you should have done before you moved in. But if you didn’t do it then, or if you don’t remember what you read, read it now. There may be very specific terms about how and when you’ll get your deposit back. Exiting renters are frequently required to to clean carpets. Some landlords will let you do it yourself, using those self-service machines you can rent. But others will insist that you hire professional cleaners, and produce a receipt. It seems like a small detail, but to a landlord looking for a reason not to pay up, it’s gold.
Ask in writing ~
It’s not usual for rental contracts to stipulate that you must request your deposit back. Although it seems obvious that you’d want your money, but if you agreed to that term, then you’re bound to it. Even if your lease doesn’t specify that you must ask, it never hurts to make that request, and put it in writing. Be specific. If your lease says you’re entitled to $400 after turning in both copies of your key, it’s a good idea to say something along the lines of ‘I’ll be in your office on _____(date) to return both of my keys and collect my $400 deposit as agreed’.
Give forwarding address ~
One of the most frequently used landlord tricks is to claim that your deposit wasn’t returned because they didn’t know where to mail it. Don’t give them that opportunity! Mail a letter giving them your new address, stating that that’s where you want your deposit mailed to. Send it by a trackable mail type, so that you can prove they received it if you need to later.
Keep your receipt ~
In fact, keep all your receipts! If you ever have to take your landlord to court to get your deposit back you’ll need to be able to prove you made every payment. Whenever possible, by in a way that automatically gives you proof, (such as a canceled check). If you must use cash, insist on a legible receipt with a signature of someone you’ll be able to get a hold of later.
Clean it up ~
Almost without fail, rental contracts say the exiting tenants must clean piratically everything before they leave, or else the deposit is forfeited. So just plan to clean. There’s usual an inspection, and even the things that were not clean when you moved in are your responsibility now. Your landlord probably uses a checklist to go through the apartment making sure everything is inspected. Ask for a copy of that checklist. Once you know exactly what they’re going to be looking at, you can better direct your efforts.
Be at the inspection ~
Offer to be present when the landlord does their final walk-through. Note only does this give you a chance to document whether they really check off everything, it may also give you a second chance on some things. Keep your cleaning supplies handy. If your landlord says something like ‘I’m going to have to deduct for this not-clean-enough window.’, you can grab some window cleaner and a paper towel and remedy that right away. If you’re able to fix things before the inspection is completely over, you may still get back that part of your deposit.
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