We have all heard horrible stories of unscrupulous landlords. So-called ‘slum lords’ who don’t make repairs to their property. But more notorious than them are greedy property owners. The most misery landlords who hold on to every little penny of the tenant’s security deposit. In this article we’ll provide you with some tips and tricks on how to get your security deposit back after a move. Don’t feel bad or uncomfortable for asking your complete security deposit back because this is your money and the landlord can’t keep it. So, before you hire your moving company, let’s learn how to get your security deposit back and you can maybe throw a party in your new home with this money.
While you live in your rental, keep your place clean
Open the windows to air the unit and clean up anything as soon as it happens. In short, keep your unit hygienic. No one wants to come into your apartment with dog feces and hair everywhere. Your friends do not and your landlord most certainly does not. Speaking of fixes: Inform your landlord of any repairs needed during your lease. Landlords must pay repairs for wear and tear. Although, some landlords may try to make you responsible for cheap repairs, typically under $50. Pull out your phone and take photos of before and after the repair. If you perform the repair, you must have evidence when the security deposit return time comes.
Read the lease and notify your landlord
Read your lease carefully and find the termination clause. In the termination clause you can find out how much notice you must give your landlord. If you don’t have a termination clause then some usual notice time will be applied. You must give enough notice before you leave. At least a month is appropriate with month to month lease. If you have a longer lease then you may need to give 60 day or 90 day notices before the lease ends. You may owe extra money if you don’t do that. Guess the source of the money? That’s right. The landlord will use your security deposit to make up for the lost funds. Don’t lose your security deposit on such simple mistakes. Avoid small claims court. If you decide to leave before the lease ends, find another person to take over your unit. This is important. Many renters left their units without a replacement only to find they were liable for the full lease term. Oftentimes this amounted to thousands of dollars even after taking the security deposit into account.
Always write a formal letter to your landlord stating your plan to move out. Don’t explain why are you moving, you do not need to justify why you’re moving. If you’re moving because of the conditions in the apartment, then you may want to consider adding a few details. Be polite and include your new address in the letter and remind the landlord that you expect him to forward your security deposit to your new address. Be super formal and include the date and your signature. If you send out the only copy, you can’t prove that the landlord received the letter. It’s essential to make a copy of the letter and keep it in a safe place. Keep a copy just in case you end up fighting for your security deposit in court. If you talk to legal experts they’ll say you should send the letter via certified mail as well. But most importantly, make sure your landlord receives it within the notification time frame. Always keep in mind that the notice time starts when your landlord receives the letter so plan your letter accordingly.
Also, if you are leaving, work out a deal with your fellow tenants to get your part of the security deposit returned early. Make sure you clean your rental property thoroughly. Fix damages, clean those marks on the wall – do whatever it takes to get the unit in livable shape. Write down and take pictures of your cleaning and repairs. Get witnesses as a bonus.
Follow up with the landlord after the move.
Once you finish using a moving company to settle into your new residence, contact your former landlord. If you feel the landlord used too much of your security deposit, then try to reach an agreement with your landlord. The landlord may require you to clean or repair more, but you will get more of your deposit back. Keep in mind agreements like this are legally binding. If all else fails, write the landlord a demand letter for your money back. This is a prerequisite to going to small claims court. You will not get your deposit back if you skip this step. Of course, the letter should include what you want, the facts, documentation, and reference your state’s security deposit law. Lastly, mention you will sue the landlord if your demands are not met.