Tips for Getting Your Renters Security Deposit Back

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    A security deposit is the amount of money that a renter must pay to the landlord to hold the rental, as well as for the landlord to pay for any repairs that must be made after the renter moves out. If you take good care of your unit and fix any minor damage on your own before you move out, your landlord should return your security deposit to you. In fact, renters are not required to pay for what is considered to be “normal wear and tear” on their unit. Unfortunately, it’s the murky definition of “normal wear and tear” that can create misunderstandings and a loss of your security deposit.

    In general, normal wear and tear might include things like carpet matting, nail holes and faded paint. Beyond that, it is usually up to the landlord to make the call, but if you have stains or burns on the carpet, broken windows or window treatments, gouges in doors and walls, pet damage or worse, you can expect your landlord to keep all or some of your security deposit to repair the damages.

    There are quite a few things you can do to help ensure that you keep damage to a minimum and get your security deposit back, including:

    • Document the condition of the unit before you move in. Take note of anything that is damaged, no matter how minor, and even take photos. Both you and your landlord should keep a copy of your checklist. That way, when it is time to move out, you will have evidence of any damage that you did not cause.
    • Know your lease. Most states allow landlords to use security deposits to cover unpaid rent or utilities, repairs not attributable to normal wear and tear, and cleaning to bring the premises back to the condition it was in when you moved in. Be sure that you know what you are expected to do before you move out. How much notice are you required to give? Are you responsible for having the carpets cleaned or patching nail holes? What happens if you move out before the full lease has been satisfied? Can your landlord keep your security deposit to cover the lost rent? If you fail to follow the rules outlined in your lease, you could very well be forfeiting your security deposit.
    • Clean up before you leave. You definitely want to leave your unit in the best possible condition when you move out. You might even consider bringing in professional cleaners to make the unit appear spic and span. You can’t lose your security deposit for leaving the place a little dirty, but it could cause problems or leave a bad taste in your landlord’s mouth and delay the return of your security deposit.
    • Know your rights as a renter. Your landlord is required to notify you in writing of the charges to your security deposit. If the landlord cannot provide this documentation, you are entitled to receive your security deposit back; remember, it is your money and your landlord can only keep it for a valid, documented purpose.
    • Ask to be present when your landlord does the final walk-through. You can offer to immediately remedy any additional problems that he or she finds without forfeiting your security deposit.
    • Make sure to give your landlord your new address! He or she will need to know where to send your money. In most states, landlords have 21 – 60 days to return your security deposit.

    You must make sure you take as much care as you can to get your security deposit back. In addition, all renters should protect themselves with renters insurance. While it won’t help you get your security deposit back, it will ensure protection if your belongings inside your rental unit are damaged or destroyed by fire, smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion or windstorm and water damage. In addition, renters insurance provides valuable liability coverage that protects you financially if you, a family member or a pet injures someone at your home or even somewhere else.

    Renters insurance is very affordable—only $15 to $30 per month on average—yet renters often go without it. If you are concerned about losing your security deposit, consider the cost of replacing all of your possessions or being sued for an accident that happens in your apartment. That is an expense that no one can afford!

    Have you ever had to forfeit all or part of a rental security deposit? Tell us why, and what you learned from your experience? Then call us about renters insurance and make sure you are covered today!

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