If you are a tenant, the ability to get your rent security back can be an emotional issue. It’s your money, but it’s being held by your landlord – just in case. That last part is what you worry about. What if “just in case” turns into you’re not getting your money back?
There are ways to avoid that ugly scenario, and to get all of your money back.
Going back to the beginning – doing a thorough inspection at move-in
This is something that you really need to do before you even more into an apartment or rental home. But if you didn’t do it at the beginning, you should do it as soon as possible. What you want to do is establish the fact that the home might contain certain deficiencies that are not as a result of your occupancy.
It has become common in garden apartments for landlords to offer tenants a checklist that they can complete confirming the existence of any problems prior to move in. Even if your landlord doesn’t provide you with such a checklist, you should write a neat and detailed list on your own, and then send it to the landlord either by email or by certified mail so that you will have evidence that it was completed prior to move in.
Don’t cut corners with this step – it is your very best protection against being held responsible for problems you didn’t create.
Study your lease and give proper notice
Before giving your landlord notice of your intent to vacate the property, first study your lease in great detail, paying particular attention to the provisions dealing with the termination of the lease.
The lease should spell out the amount of notice the landlord requires. This is generally 30 or 60 days. Don’t assume that the landlord will know automatically that you intend to leave at the end of the lease. There is usually a notice requirement that relates to not renewing the lease.
Also, if you will be terminating the lease early, there should be written provisions in regard to any penalties for doing so. As a general rule, leases will contain language that will require you to forfeit at least one month’s rent if you break the lease. Be ready for this.
Be sure to pay your last month’s rent
Many tenants mistakenly believe that their security deposit covers the last month’s rent. In reality, your security deposit is to cover damage to the property upon the termination of the lease. Your last month’s rent is required even though the landlord is holding a security deposit.
This is especially important if you live in an area where the security deposit normally exceeds one month’s rent. In some areas, it is customary to pay first month’s rent, a security deposit, and the last month’s rent. In other areas, the security deposit is equal to 1 ½ month’s rent.
If you assume that your security deposit is for the last month’s rent, you could forfeit any amounts that exceed the monthly rent. The landlord can easily absorb the extra amount as a penalty for failing to pay your rent on time, or to exaggerate the cost of making relatively minor repairs.
Leave the property in better condition than you found it
Before leaving the rental property, be sure to go through it with a fine tooth comb, and make any necessary repairs. This is particularly important if the damage was done by you, but it can also help if you repair anything that was defective before move in, but didn’t report to the landlord.
It should go without saying that you should leave the home in squeaky clean condition. Vacuum the carpets, mop the floors, and especially clean the kitchen and bathrooms. A landlord can charge a cleaning fee if you leave the property a mess. In addition, it can also cause the landlord to hunt around for other issues he or she can charge you for.
Leave nothing behind
Nothing irritates a landlord quite so much as a tenant who moves out, but leaves a couple of rooms full of furniture, or a basement or garage full of useless storage items, or a backyard filled with yard waste or old tires. If you brought it in – you need to bring it out!
A landlord can charge a hauling fee to remove anything you don’t take with you. And he will take it right out of your security deposit. Then he’ll start hunting for other things to charge you for.
Stay in close contact with your landlord after giving notice – and until your security deposit is returned
A little bit of diplomacy can go a long way in encouraging a landlord to return your security deposit. The relationship between you and your landlord should not deteriorate into open hostility as a result of your moving out of the property. Keep the lines of communication open, and do all that you can to coordinate your departure and the landlord’s transition to a new tenant.
By being a pro-active tenant, you will improve your landlord’s opinion you, and make it easier to get your full security deposit returned, and returned quickly.
Have you ever had trouble getting a rent security deposit back from a landlord?
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