Don’t let your landlord stiff you! We live in the day and age where this tiny piece of paper called ‘money’ controls our life. You need it for everything! It’s especially hard to part with one month’s rent as collateral for living in an apartment owned by someone else, but because one person ruined it for everyone else, we have to do it. Each time I have moved, though, I have received every cent back. I am a savvy dweller, like you, so I’m going to share with you the 9 Secrets to Getting Your Security Deposit Back.
1. Don’t Trash the Place
Duh, right? Yet, people do it. Don’t punch holes in the walls or doors, or let questionable company party at your house. Clean it often. Let fresh air in. Don’t let your dog go to the bathroom all over the place, or let it ending up looking like something you’d see on Hoarders.
2. Clean Your Dirty Apartment!
When you turn in your notice to vacate, typically your landlord gives you a cleaning checklist – keep that. Your landlord has indicated what the charge will be for each item missed in the cleaning department, and that charge is beyond the normal rate of inflation and it will be deducted from your deposit. Landlords do NOT like having to clean the fridge, stove, or bathroom any more than you do (and they certainly don't want to scrape off your dried toothpaste off the bathroom mirror), because it’s costly and time consuming (especially if the apartment is rented for the next day). So, clean up after yourself.
3. Complete Your Move-In Checklist and Turn it In
Before you move any of your stuff in, inspect the apartment thoroughly. My nerdy self takes photographs with a time and date stamp, so I have proof that I did not cause the gigantic scratch in the hardwood floors or whatever the defect may be. I am overly detailed on the move-in checklist for a reason: I want my money back. I keep a copy of the checklist for my records, along with the photographs, then turn in the original to the landlord. There is zero dispute when you obtain all the proof of how the apartment was at the time it was move-in condition. What if your landlord doesn't provide you with a move-in checklist (like mine) because it's just not a part of their lease process? Make a list of your own, make a copy, and give your landlord the original.
4. Turn Your Keys in On Time
When you need to have your keys turned into the office no later than 12 noon on the last day of your lease, you should try to have them in no later than that. Why? Hefty charges (I've seen a minimum of $200 at many places) occur hourly thereafter, which usually is deducted from your security deposit. Save yourself a ton of dough and ensure you have all that you will need prior to move day so it’s smooth sailing.
5. Give Proper Notice
The landlord requires a certain amount of time to turn in your notice to vacate in the lease. It’s very important to know if it’s 30 or 60, so you know that you are providing sufficient and proper notice to vacate. The reason landlords indicate a certain number of days is so that they have ample time to remarket the apartment to a new renter. When you don’t provide a proper notice, typically you’ll have to pay a fee (or opt to stay for another month since it'll probably be cheaper) – avoid this by communicating properly with your landlord.
6. Don’t Skip
To the Lou? Sure. But… let’s face it: It’s a tough market out there. If you find yourself in a less than desirable financial situation, don’t just leave your apartment. Communicate with your landlord. If it is a grave predicament, consider potential assistance the county or state may be able to provide you. But never, under any circumstance, just move out of your apartment. Commonly called a “skip”, a resident who vacates the property without informing the property faces irreparable damage to their rental history (it will show as an eviction) on top of incurring several hundreds of dollars in legal fees. Plus, you can guarantee that you won’t see one cent of that security deposit back.
7. That Water Damage in the Shape of a Bubble Ain’t Gonna Help Ya
Your lease may require you to report any water damage – whether it is just a slight discoloration or bubbling – you’ll want to make sure you know exactly what your landlord expects of you. If you moved in and the bathroom ceiling looked like that, take a picture, mark it on the move-in checklist, and then notify your landlord. The last thing you want is to be held responsible for failure to report water damage or worse, causing the damage yourself.
8. Don’t Throw Your Couch in the Dumpster
Guess what? Your landlord knows you are moving. They’ve been in your house to show prospective renters your apartment. That cool retro couch you just tossed in the dumpster? Oh, yeah. Your landlord will charge you for that – and it will not be cheap, because now your landlord will be charged a huge amount by the rummage service. They will recoup that from you. If you want to dispose of large items, you need to do it properly so consider dropping them off at the local dump. There’ll be a fee for that, but nothing nearly to the extent that your landlord would charge.
9. Leave Your Forwarding Address
According to Minnesota law, landlords have 21 days after the last day of your lease to return your deposit to you. If you do not leave a forwarding address with the rental office, you face dealing with an untimely delivery of funds. Landlords in Minnesota are required to mail the security deposit to the last known address, so if you didn’t give them your new one, that unfortunately means they will send it the apartment you just moved out of. So don’t forget to leave your forwarding address!
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