Are you worried about asking for your security deposit back at the conclusion of your lease? You are not required to be. If you’ve taken good care of your apartment, your security deposit should be returned in whole. Here’s how you can get your security deposit back:
Understand the security deposit refund rules
When your security deposit should be returned
Most states require landlords to reimburse your security deposit within 30 days of departure but double-check your contract for the exact timeframe. Your landlord should not need additional time to collect the monies; normally, security deposits must be kept in a bank account distinct from their company bank account. (It could even be in an interest-bearing account. You are entitled to such earnings in certain states, but not all, when the security deposit is refunded, so check with your local housing authority to see what the laws are where you reside.)
What can be deducted from your security deposit
Your landlord may deduct unpaid rent and damage repair charges from your security deposit. If there is damage, the landlord must provide you with a complete inventory of all necessary repairs as well as evidence of the cost of the repairs (copies of bills or receipts).
How to make sure you get your security deposit refund
1. Fill out an apartment rental inspection checklist.
The process of reclaiming your security deposit begins the day you move in. Fill out the move-in checklist provided by your landlord or create your list covering all of your unit’s built-in amenities.
Take photos or videos of your unit as quickly as possible and email them to your landlord the same day. This way, you’ll have digital and time-stamped proof of the property’s condition when you initially rented it.
2. Read your lease carefully.
If you want your security deposit refunded, you must follow the regulations for moving out of your property. A lease may automatically renew after its expiration date. If it does, you must give your landlord notice—most likely 30 days—or you may be considered to be in breach of your lease. This could result in the loss of your security deposit. You must also provide written notice if your lease is month-to-month.
3. Learn local landlord tenant laws about security deposits.
Landlords should follow local regulations and statutes, and a little study on renters’ rights can go a far way. In Alabama, for example, your security deposit is limited to one month’s rent (save for additional deposits for pets). The landlord is then required to reimburse your deposit 60 days after your lease expires. If you live in Montana, there is no statutory deposit limit, and you get your money back in 30 days—or 10 days if no deductions were made. A security deposit in Nevada can be up to three months’ rent, and landlords have 30 days to return it.
4. Organize and reassemble your place.
When it’s time to leave, look over the images you shot when you first moved here. Spend some time restoring the property to its original state. If you painted, ask your landlord for the name of the original paint color so they know you’re trying hard. (It also gives your landlord the opportunity to warn you if they want to have the place repainted themselves.) Repair any loose cabinet and door hinges. Carpets and floors should be thoroughly cleaned. Clean the bathrooms and kitchen, including the stove and refrigerator.
5. Document the place on move-out day.
Do the same at the opposite end as you did at the beginning. Take pictures of every room and surface and email them to yourself for that all-important time and date stamp.
You can also ask for a final apartment walk-through. After you’ve completed your thorough cleaning, request that your landlord view the property with you. Landlords aren’t compelled to do this, and they may prefer to examine the home on their own while you’re gone, but it’s worth asking.
6. Give your landlord your forwarding address.
It’s so straightforward that it’s easy to overlook: your landlord must know where to mail your security deposit. Ensure to provide a forwarding address and instructions for a direct transfer.
7. If you get resistance on your security deposit refund, take action.
You can write a certified letter if you completed everything correctly and your landlord refuses to return your security deposit or withholds it. Outline your grounds for receiving some or all of your security deposit refund, including any landlord-tenant regulations that require it. If you have before and after images, include them as evidence.
The letter may be enough to persuade your landlord because the next step could be small claims court. However, you can submit a claim and seek legal action if it does not.
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