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If you’re a renter or in the market for a new rental, one of the biggest pain points when moving is the return of your security deposit. Given the range may fall between one to two month’s rent, it’s highly important you take the necessary precautions to ensure you get the most of your money back!
Here are six tips from Trulia to avoid losing thousands to lost security deposits.
1. Take Photos or Video at Move-In
The first step to protecting your deposit happens when you move in to your new rental. Walk through the unit with your landlord and take photos (or video) of every nook and cranny. Your photos should depict the space at the “macro”-level (full rooms) as well as the “micro”-level (get close-ups of any existing damage.)
Email the files to your landlord on the same day, so that you both have digital, time-stamped documentation of the condition of the property at move-in. If the video files are too large to email, send it to your landlord via Dropbox or upload it to YouTube as a private video.
Your landlord will appreciate this gesture, as you both share the same goal: you both want solid documentation during move-in so that you won’t get into a brawl during move-out. Your landlord wants the property restored to its move-in condition, so the more you can “prove” that move-in condition, the better — for both of you.
2. Give Ample Written Notice Before Move-Out
Your lease might specify the amount of notice you need to give your landlord before you move out — for example, 30 days or 60 days. You lease will also specify what types of communication are acceptable forms of notice — e.g., you might need to send a letter or an email to a particular address. Make sure that you comply with this requirement.
If your lease doesn’t specify anything, ask your landlord how much notice you’ll need to give.
The reason that landlords keep this provision in place is so that they have enough time to conduct showings of your unit. Vacancy is one of the biggest expenses that drain a landlord’s wallet. The more you can help reduce vacancy (by giving plenty of notice), the better.
Speaking of which …
3. Don’t Obstruct Showings
Don’t be obstructive or difficult-to-deal-with when your landlord tries to set-up showings for new tenants. For example, don’t insist that you must be home during every showing, forcing your landlord and the potential new tenant to work around your erratic schedule. Don’t change the locks. Don’t leave your house as a giant mess.
Some leases include provisions that state that the landlord can charge you if you’re unnecessarily obstructive. And even if your lease doesn’t assess a penalty, it’s still good diplomacy to be easy-to-work-with. The more you make your landlord’s job easier, and reduce the costs (including vacancy) that come out of her pocket, the more likely you’ll be to get your deposit back (as well as keep a strong reference).
4. Ask for the Master Paint Color
Did you hang artwork, curtain rods or a wall-mounted TV to your dwelling? If so, then you’ve punctured a few holes in the walls. Those holes will need to be filled and painted.
Before you move out, take a trip to the local hardware store to pick up some spackle with which to patch those drywall holes. Then ask your landlord for the precise paint color, including the SKU number or the exact brand name and finish. You should know that you’re specifically searching for “Behr Ivory Invitation in Eggshell Finish” or “Sherwin Williams Realist Beige in a Flat Finish.”
5. Clean the Carpets
When it comes to carpets, an ounce of prevention can equal several hundred dollars in cure.
Lay a rug near your entry door, where you can wipe your feet from dirt, mud and snow before you start tromping across the carpets.
Vaccuum your carpets regularly while you’re living there. Make a practice of walking indoors without shoes, which can extend the life of the carpets.
While you’re at the hardware store, rent a stream cleaner. (Or buy a Groupon for a carpet steam cleaning service). Deep-clean your carpets before you move out.
6. Don’t Leave Anything Behind
The last thing that your landlord needs to handle is dealing with your stuff after you move-out. Take everything with you when you leave; don’t leave any of your personal possessions behind.
This is an extra-essential point. In some states and municipalities, you’re not considered “moved out” until your personal possessions have also vacated the premises, which means that your landlord might be able to charge you rent for the length of time that your stuff is on-site.
Furthermore, in many states, your landlord must endure the process of legally evicting your possessions. (Landlords are subject to strict rules with regard to handling a tenant’s belongings.) This means that if you leave personal property behind, you may have an eviction on your credit record in addition to liability for several months of back-rent.