Renting 101: How to Get Your Deposit Back

By: Contributor

We’ve all been there: You find your dream rental home or apartment, you pay your landlord or leasing company a hefty deposit, you move in and live in your new place for several happy years. And then, something happens. You get a new job, you expand your family or you just want a change of scenery—so you move on. And find another perfect place. But before you completely part ways, you’ll want to make sure that you try to get your deposit back. It’s not always easy, but it’s always worth it. Use these tips to improve your chances.

Before you move in, snap a pic.

Or 10 or 20 or 50. That way, you’ll be able to prove that the chipped paint on the bathroom door or the small tear in the living room carpet existed before you even moved in. Try to get a time or date stamped on the photo so you can have them as proof several months (or even years) down the line.

Do a thorough cleaning.

Within reason, you should try to leave your rental in the same condition as you found it. Now, wear and tear happens. But at the very least, you can make sure that the place is clean. Do a deep clean after moving out your belongings. Don’t forget to scrub the bathtub, the refrigerator shelves and inside of the oven. These problem spots tend to accumulate the most grime, and if you forget to clean there, your landlord may choose to keep your entire deposit to hire a cleaning crew—regardless of how spotless you left the rest of the place.

Know the details up front.

When you sign your lease, make sure you look for any clause that indicates your landlord will keep a portion of your deposit money for cleaning, painting, repairs, etc. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about what the deposit will go toward—it’s always better to know up front than after the fact.

Have an honest conversation with your landlord.

So you’ve done everything you can do to leave your rental in its best possible condition, but your landlord refuses to give back your deposit. Now what? Before jumping to conclusions or hiring a lawyer, take a deep breath. And remember that your landlord is just another person, too. Try to meet with him or her in person to discuss why you aren’t getting your deposit back. Be courteous and respectful, but stand your ground if you truly believe that you left the rental in better condition than when you moved in. There are slumlords out there, but if you’ve generally had a positive relationship with your landlord, try and maintain that throughout your communication—it will definitely increase the odds that you’ll get your deposit back.

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