Moving can be an enormously stressful time of packing, loading, ensuring that every little thing is accounted for, and ensuring that your finances are accounted for. One financial obligation that you don’t want to leave unchecked is your security deposit, the check or lump sum wad of cash roughly equal to a month’s worth of rent that you typically pay before move-in.
As the name implies, security deposits are security measures, intent on covering any necessary maintenance repairs beyond basic wear, back rent, or any other upkeep of the property. If none of those conditions need to be filled or repairs need to made, then you are entitled to a full refund of your security deposit payment. Here’s everything you need to know about getting that full payment back.
Refer To Your Lease
Before you move out, evaluate your lease agreement to get a more thorough overview of the particular obligations that have been met, the obligations that still need to be met, and any additional information about the condition that the landlord or property management wants to have the rental in.
Additionally, if you would like to perform maintenance work during your lease but aren’t certain which repairs will count against your security deposit, then the terms and conditions of your lease can be a useful reference tool. However, if the lease is vague and unclear and still leaves you with some ambiguities regarding what does and doesn’t count against your deposit, then always contact the landlord or property management firm directly for clarification. You’ll want to do so in an email, letter, or another form of writing should any further conflicts arise.
Tie Up Loose Ends
Once you know which maintenance and lease conditions can be covered without threatening your security deposit, you can then prioritize which ones you should focus on. Common issues which can eat away at your deposit if left unchecked include carpet stains, window/screen damage, drywall issues, and bathroom drain clogging. All of these things, though capable of nicking several bucks off that deposit, can all be dealt with some elbow grease. Now more than ever, there are countless how-to videos available at your fingertips, and it is now easier than ever to be your own handyman and remove the need for a landlord to hire one.
Do A Walk Through
By dealing with maintenance issues promptly and efficiently on your own terms, it can remove some of the risks of losing your security deposit, but you don’t want to leave any stone unturned. Before you move in and before you move out of the property, ensure that you and your landlord do a mutual walkthrough and inspection of the property, thoroughly noting any pre-existing scratches, cracks, carpet pulls, or any other potential damages before you pay the full security deposit.
Then, before you finally vacate the property for good, set up a final walkthrough, comparing the current condition of the property to its initial condition before move-in. Both walkthroughs will help ensure that you and your landlord are on the same page of which potential damages you will be charged for, and if your landlord tries to erroneously claim any false damages where there weren’t any, you’ll have proof of damages which existed prior to your arrival.
Review Your Legal Rights
Referring to review websites or speaking to prior tenants can be great ways to decrease your likelihood of entering into an agreement with an unreliable landlord or property manager. Fortunately, you have some recourse to defend your rights as a tenant by law, but it’s important that you understand the specifics that information first. Sites like Nolo and continual Google searches are great starting points to review your states’ legislation.
If you believe that your landlord is unfairly holding onto the deposit money, write them a demand letter to civilly negotiate. It varies state by state, but landlords have a legal obligation to return their obligation within a certain deadline, and if not, they may force your hand to file a lawsuit through a small claims court. In Pennsylvania, the deadline is 30 days and up to $12,000 can be claimed, but always review your own local legislation before taking any legal action.
Always hold onto your lease paperwork, every email, every letter, and any notes from both inspection walkthroughs; take the extra step to have photos and a video recording to backup your inspection.