Security deposits can be an easy-to-overlook aspect of rental agreements for tenants. You find a great place, you like the location and monthly rate, and perhaps they do not have many units left so you feel pressures to act quickly…. Before you know it you have signed a contract with maybe a limited understanding of exactly how much of your security deposit you can expect to get back when you decide to move again, months or years later. Here are a few tips and tidbits you can apply regarding your security deposit.
The first thing to know is that the deposit amount requested has to be reasonable. As a general rule of thumb, you should never have to pay anything substantially greater than one month’s rent. Another important point is that normal wear and tear is never your responsibility. Things like rug wear caused by normal use, warped windows or doors due to environmental factors— these are the types of things that are not legally responsible for. If your unit is corporately owned this should not come into question (the property managers should know local and state laws pretty well). However you may have an individual landlord who may not have an exact knowledge. Feel free to reference your local rental laws if that is the case.
There are lots of smart moves you can do to minimize or eliminate your deposit deduction. Most importantly, be sure to do a thorough inspection of the entire apartment before you sign off on it. Check inside the cabinets, the windows, all the doors, walls for paint or holes, etc. It can be easy to miss existing damages when you have a lot on your mind to organize the move-in and when your landlord or property manage appears busy, but take your time. Remember that this is part of their job and it is certainly in your best interest to be thorough. Once you sign off, any existing damages instantly become your responsibility.
Next, don’t damage the unit! Obviously. Don’t, for example, hang pictures that require large holes in the wall, it is hard to do touch up jobs that are completely unnoticeable, even if you have the exact original paint (and that is pretty unlikely) as paint dry-times can affect the finished color tone.
And finally, if you’ve lived in current unit for a long time and are not sure if there are damages you may be responsible for, you can often schedule a walk through by your landlord or property manager. This way, you will know exactly what to expect when you are ready to move out. And better, if you are reasonably handy, you can make an necessary repairs or cleaning yourself and save some money.