Know your security deposit options…
Your landlord has the right to charge whatever they want to charge for your security deposit. That’s right. Whatever you agree to pay, is what you have to pay, so don’t forget the deposit might be negotiable. Or at least you might be able to pay a small amount now, then the rest before you move in. Be sure any deposit payment agreement with your future landlord is in writing. If your credit is suffering, you might end up paying more security deposit than someone with stellar credit. Once you have paid your deposit, also be sure to get a receipt and keep the receipt in a safe place until you move out – you might need it later.
The return of your deposit after you move out may be based on the condition of your rental at that time. So be sure that when you move in, that you get a check-in (or move-in) sheet, and that you complete it thoroughly, noting all dings in the ceiling and walls, repaired spots, worn carpet, rust on appliances – well, everything. Make sure all moving parts, such as toilets, faucets, and light switches work properly. Take special care to look for leak spots, which might indicate a future water damage problem, or a mold issue. If you neglect to mention these types of things initially, you might be held responsible for the damaged caused later. Additionally, take pictures of the entire rental inside and out, and store the files in a safe place. If your landlord agrees to fix some of these things before you move in, you should get that in writing and include a date that the work will be finished by prior to your move in date.
Check your lease for fees that are not refundable when you move out. Those fees will be deducted from your deposit. Typically they are items such as carpet shampooing and cleaning. If you agree to hire a professional to do the same, you might be able to save some money. Additionally, pay attention to the number of days notice to vacate at the end of your lease. If you don’t give the proper notice, you may end up having to pay for additional rent that you didn’t use. Also take pictures of the condition of the property when you move, so you cannot be held liable for something you didn’t do. If you are charged for repairs after you move out, ask for an itemized list, so that you don’t end up paying $10.00 for a missing light bulb.
If you feel that you didn’t get treated fairly with the return of your deposit, let your landlord know in writing. Be polite, though, sometimes it is just an oversight. Your lease should contain the amount of time allowed before the landlord has to account for your security deposit. If you cannot come to terms, you might need to contact the local tenant’s council or go to a small claims court. Many times the threat of legal action is enough to get things resolved, but only use that as a last resort. Most often you can get it resolved, but remember that the lease you signed is the most important factor. If you didn’t read the lease thoroughly, or comply with the terms, you may be out of luck.