How to Get Your Security Deposit Back from Your Landlord
Getting your security deposit back from your landlord or apartment management company is one of the most discussed and researched topics in the entire industry. This is true for both landlords who oversee apartment complexes, all the way to single family homes. Luckily most states have strict rules regarding this process.
If you have any questions, then be sure and view the appropriate statutes that govern your state. Usually the landlord is either required to return your deposit or a itemized list of deductions in place of the deposit. Are they getting away with keeping your money?
When Can a Landlord Keep Your Money
The best advice anyone can offer is to read your lease. Anything that is beyond normal wear and tear can be used to refurbish the apartment home. So lets offer some examples of what is normal wear and tear and what isn’t
- Loose door knobs
- Carpet wear (not including heavy stains)
- Fading paint
- Burnt out lights
- Nicks on walls, rooms, and hallways
- Small chips in tile and scratches on wood floors
Items that exceed Wear and Tear
- Broken lights
- Heavy carpet stains
- Broken windows/damaged apartment interiors
- Urine stains
- Deep scratches on wood floors caused by pets
Abnormal wear and tear can be described as repairs the landlord needs to make that they were not planning on making due to your negligence. Again this will vary by the states, so you will need to check out the related statutes.
If your appliances malfunction, you shouldn’t be charged to repair or replace them. However, if you damaged them through negligence, you may be held liable. If your washer and dryer or any other appliance malfunctions, you should notify the appropriate parties as soon as possible.
Always Review Your Lease
Everything will be spelled out in your lease agreement. When in doubt be sure and review this important document. For example, the lease may specify that no trash shall be left behind. Don’t be surprised if you receive a fine or penalty for doing so. Some renters have innocently left some paper bags or other items behind. Although this might be “no big deal”, if it’s in the lease, expect to be held accountable.
Some apartments allow for residents to paint accent walls or hang photographs. Remember that most leases will state the rental must be altered back to the initial state. If you fail to make those changes, prepare for your security deposit to be used.
How to Move Out
Ok so your ready to move-out. The first item of business will be to verify how many days in advance you need to provide notice. Although your lease will have a specific end date, you still have to let the landlord know you will be moving out. Most apartment communities ask for 60 days notice. Many of the bigger apartment complexes will notify you when this day approaches. They may slip a notice under your door, making you aware of the upcoming dates and what decisions you may make.
Then you should ask your landlord about scheduling a pre walk-through inspection. Some will provide one, and others won’t. This will allow you a chance to repair or clean up anything that otherwise would be deducted from your deposit. This will prevent any future surprises.
Pro Tip: Do yourself a favor and take photos of the apartment before you move-in and after you move out just in case.
Most of the time you won’t have any issues. However, you really never know who you will be dealing with.
Some leases will indicate that your apartment for rent should be in the same condition it was when you first occupied the unit. It would behoove you to either hire a cleaning service or conduct an extensive cleaning on your own.
What if My Security Deposit is Used for Repairs
It’s very common for security deposits not to be returned in full. What you thought was clean, potentially wasn’t.
You should receive an itemized list explaining what the deposit was used for. Remember each state will have its own specific requirements.
Depending on each state’s legislation, a security deposit can be used for:
- Unpaid Rent
- Utility Bills
- Cleaning, Cleaning Services, etc
If you believe that your deposit was used for items you don’t believe needed to be rectified, you may need to hire an attorney to help you sort through the issues that relate to landlord tenant law.But before it gets that far, you might do better contacting the landlord and relaying the concerns to him/her. In Colorado, the landlord has up to 60 days to return the security deposit.
The silver lining here is that if the landlord doesn’t return the deposit or fails to send an itemized list of all of the deductions, then they give up their ability to withhold any of the security deposit at all. This means potentially you can claim the entire amount be returned to you.
Now there is more. In the event the security deposit was never returned, renters in Colorado can potentially sue for 3 times the amount. But this does require work on your end like sending a certified letter, etc.
What to Takeaway
When in doubt read your apartment lease. If you don’t understand the contract, ask the manager to clarify the items for you.
Any damage caused by you will most likely be deducted. Be sure to follow the instructions regarding the move-out process. Restoring your apartment home in the condition upon which it was received, will offer you the most potential for receiving the majority (if not all) of the security deposit.
If issues do arise, your state will offer you the appropriate resolutions. Lastly, don’t forget to leave a forwarding address so the deposit may be returned to you.