WHAT IS A SECURITY DEPOSIT?
A security deposit is money you pay to the landlord to ensure that your property will return to rent-ready condition at the end of your lease term. The sum can vary from state to state, but is generally a month’s rent. The payment of the security deposit is a security to the landlord that you will abide by your lease and care for the property while you are tenant; and they, in turn will hold the property for you and hold your lease above any other lease.
Demand for a security deposit is common practice. There is generally little problem with the security deposit at the beginning of the lease terms. The problems generally arise at the end of the lease terms when the landlord and tenant disagree on the amount of the deposit to be returned. Part of the problem exists in that renters often view the security deposit like a tax refund and expect to re-gain the entire amount they paid in. Landlords, on the other hand, have experience and a trained eye to see where money must be spent in order to return a property to a rentable standard; and they use the money from the security deposit to cover the cleaning and repairs required.
In my short experience in the property management industry, I have already seen how ugly this dynamic can get. When money is involved, tensions rise; especially when a tenant is counting on a security deposit from one place to pay for another. But the desperation and expectancy can tend to skew perspective, leading tenants to mistake an empty house for a clean house and their own living standards for clean to be rentable condition.
HOW TO GET YOUR FULL REFUND BACK
If you want to get your full security deposit back, here’s what you need to do.
First, check your lease to see if there are any non-refundable fees coming out of your deposit, such as carpet cleaning or painting. If there are fees, subtract those from the security deposit you paid and get that number in your head because that is the amount you agreed you could recoup at the end of lease terms.
Next, you have to work. Nothing is free. If you’d like your money, you have to put in some effort into returning your place to the condition it was when you got it. (If you are working with a good landlord or property management company, there will be documentation of the condition of the place that you can refer to or ask about.) CLEAN. Clean the place so it would be how you would like to see it the first time you move in…
You know how it feels to get into a new place, all excited and full of possibility just to see a dirty toilet or hair in the sink…it’s deflating. It destroys the confidence you have in your own choice and in the quality of the landlord and home. That’s what we are working to avoid. We want you to love your place, to have all of our properties move-in ready. So, if you leave the toilet dirty or whatever, that has to be cleaned so that the new people can have the delight of a new clean place.
Make sure you give yourself enough time to clean and get your old place ship-shape while moving in to a new place. It’s tough. But, if you’re put in a crunch position you will end up paying for the convenience of having someone else do the clean-up for you. It’s just like anything in life, when you need something in a hurry, it costs more. Give yourself some extra time if you can.
It is possible to get your security deposit back…
Here are the top 10 places/things you may have forgotten that can add up and cost you big.
Light bulbs. If it is in your lease to make sure all the lights work when you leave, then do it. Light bulbs don’t cost much, but they can get pretty expensive when you have to pay the service fees to have someone else put them in.
Microwave. Don’t forget to clean the door and the “ceiling” of the microwave. You wouldn’t want to move in find crusted food in your microwave…
Stove. Clean the drip pans. Clean the inside of the oven—including the often-forgotten broiler drawer!! Check the seam between the counter and the stove as crumbs and grease accumulate there. It isn’t a big deal for the everyday, but it will make your stomach turn when you were expecting a clean new place.
Dishwasher. Clean the dishwasher? Yes. On the inside lip of the dishwasher there is often crumbs and yuck. Sometimes even food pieces left in the bottom. Wipe all the ledges and make sure the soap container isn’t all gunked up. Then, run it empty and let the dishwasher do the rest of the job for you.
Toilet. You don’t like cleaning it. No one really does. But, can you imagine going into a new place and seeing a dirty toilet? Check your work again, though, because you might have gotten the bowl clean enough, but what about the under-side of the seat, the back by the toilet seat hinges, the bottom base where hair and dust accumulate? That all has to be clean for the next person. If you do it, you’re that much closer to a full security deposit refund.
Baseboards. You probably didn’t notice them much because you had furniture, decorations, and other stuff around. Baseboards are amazing dust collectors, especially in the corners. Wipe them down thoroughly. You might be a little surprised at how dirty they’ve been and even notice a drip mark or two on the wall from a spill you don’t even remember.
Sinks. Do your best to remove any soap or mineral build up around the faucets and at the bottom drain. Make sure they are wiped dry so there isn’t a lot of water spots visible. While you’re at it, do the tub, too.
Light fixtures and ceiling fans. You aren’t looking for dust because you don’t know to look for dust. Hanging light fixtures are also great dust collectors and even make a fun little playground for little bugs and spiders. There’s a good chance there is a cobweb that you never noticed and some serious dust on the light covers and ceiling fan blades.
Window tracks. I hate cleaning blinds. I might just pony up the money to have someone else do it. Check your lease to see how much it will cost you. So, maybe you do the blinds; but also make sure to check the window sills and window tracks. Bugs and dirt build up and it’s a very unpleasant sight to see, especially when you’re expecting to come into a new clean place.
Planter shelves. If your place has any built in ledges, make sure you wipe them when you leave. Just because you can’t see the dust and dirt, doesn’t mean it’s not there. And your landlord will check because they have to make sure the place is clean and ready for the new tenant.
It is possible to get your full security deposit back—less any fees agreed upon in your lease. Remember that you are cleaning to return the place to the condition it was when you got it. Give yourself time. And think of the next person moving in…that was you just a short time ago. You moved into a nice clean place; let your following tenants have one, too. Your generosity will pay you…the maximum amount of your security deposit allowed by your lease terms.