Post-Rental: How To Get A Security Deposit Return
Whenever you sign a lease for an apartment, one of the first things you need to ask about is the security deposit. Most rentals require one these days, and it's critical to find out when the security deposit is due, under what circumstance it can be used and when you'll get it back.
If you’re moving out and trying to get your security deposit returned to you, there are several things you need to do in order to improve your chances of getting the maximum amount back. Use this guide to help you navigate the sometimes tricky waters of security deposit agreements.
How Can I Clean My Rental Effectively?
The most important part of getting back your security deposit is returning your rental to the condition it was in when you first moved in. Start by scheduling a walk-through of the rental with your landlord to have them identify the areas they expect to be fixed up or cleaned before you’re gone. If you took photos when you moved in, use those as a reminder of what damage was pre-existing.
Armed with plenty of cleaning supplies, use this checklist to help you really spruce the place up before you leave:
- Clean windows inside and out
- Clean kitchen – including cupboards, drawers and behind appliances
- Remove any scuffs or marks from the walls and wash the baseboards
- Fill in any holes on the walls that you made to hang up pictures, the TV, etc.
- Clean any carpet thoroughly and remove any stains
- Clean any hardwood, tile or concrete flooring
- Clean bathrooms – including toilet and bathtub/shower
If you’re able to afford it, it helps to have a professional cleaning company come in and do the work for you. These crews are adept at finding all the little things you may have missed and making sure everything looks great. Make a copy of your receipt or invoice to give to your landlord.
When Is My Landlord Required To Give Back My Security Deposit?
There are certain requirements a landlord has to follow by law when it comes to returning a tenant’s security deposit. First, they usually only have a month or two until the security deposit has to be in, with the specific laws varying by state.
Secondly, the landlord has to provide an itemized statement that details any deductions if the full security deposit is not returned. For example, if you left the carpets in poor condition, the landlord might take the amount needed to have them professionally cleaned out of your security deposit – but they must inform you that this is why the full amount was not returned.
Talk to your landlord before moving out so you have a clearer idea of when you can expect your security deposit to be returned. In addition, don’t forget to give your new address to your landlord in writing. That way, they’ll be able to send you the security deposit (or their itemized list) once it’s ready.
What If My Landlord Is Refusing To Return My Deposit?
Let’s say you’ve taken all the necessary steps to get your security deposit back. You’ve cleaned the apartment, worked with your landlord to prep the rental for moving out and notified them of your new address. But what if the landlord ignores your request and hasn’t sent you your security deposit yet?
If this happens to you, take the following steps:
- Send notification to the landlord: If you’ve tried calling or sending an email with no results, it’s time to send a demand letter. Include any applicable documentation, such as your notice to move out, a copy of the letter indicating your new address and copies of emails you’ve sent. Look up your local security deposit laws and cite them verbatim in the message. Send your letter via certified mail and ask for a response within 10 days.
- Sue in small claims court: If the deadline passes and you still haven’t heard from your landlord, it’s time to file a lawsuit in small claims court. There will be a small filing fee, and you’ll need to gather all the applicable evidence to support your case.
- Attend a trial: Your small claims court trial will allow both sides to present his or her side of the case. The trial will probably last less than 15 minutes, so be prepared to explain your case concisely.
If you want more help with getting your security deposit back, speak with a lawyer about your options. They can help guide you in the right direction if you’re confused about local laws or if your case is particularly complicated.