Frequently Asked

How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

Nov 12, 2021

No one wants to move into a home that looks like it's already been lived in. This is why landlords have move-out requirements to ensure their homes are returned in the state they were given. When these requirements are met, you’re likely to get back your full security deposit. Find out which move-out guidelines are the most important to consider.

5 Tips to Get Your Security Deposit Back

Landlords return a renter’s security deposit after confirming that no additional costs are needed to restore the property. Many of these costs can be avoided by the renter directly during the move-out process. Whether a renter follows the move-out guidelines is up to them — however, a renter's cooperation determines how much of their security deposit will be returned.

Don’t miss out on an easy boost to your bank account after a move-out. Get your full security deposit back by knowing these 5 helpful tips.

1. Understand the Lease

couple looking at a lease agreement

An easy way to avoid losing your security deposit is by understanding the expectations and requirements provided within your lease. Landlords may have different guidelines on how they want a move-out conducted.

Instead of rushing to the part of your lease that says “sign here,” take a moment and look for the section that addresses move-out policies. This simple step can be the difference between you getting your full security deposit back or only getting a portion.

Usually, landlords will provide a list of expectations upon your move-out date. However, in the case where they are more hands-off, it never hurts to reach out and ask what they expect or to refer back to the lease.

Not all leases are the same, meaning move-out procedures can vary. For example, landlords may provide a desired cleaning service, allow you to find your own cleaning service, or allow you to do the deep clean yourself. Mixing up your landlord’s preference may cause you to lose your security deposit.

2. Remove Bulky Items

moving boxes and supplies on a table

Landlords have enough on their plate during the transition from one renter to another. The last thing they want to do is deal with your leftover furniture. If a landlord has to remove any bulky items you left behind, they will take out a percentage from your security deposit.

Even if big items are removed, such as the couch, table, or bed, if you leave something as small as a hanging light fixture or mirror, you may get penalized. No matter how cute you may think that hanging Edison light bulb is, a good house addition to you may not be a shared opinion by your landlord.

As an overall rule, remove all furniture and bulky items from a home during the move-out process. Whether you’re in a rush to move out or don’t know how to sell your belongings online, the process can be fast and easy with the right resources.

The only exception to this rule is when you have an agreement with your landlord to leave behind certain items. Usually in instances where a rental home comes furnished, or if a landlord admires a renter's addition to the home, they may agree to allow you to leave it for future renters.

3. Clean Thoroughly

man vacuuming living room floors

During a move-out, homes usually need to be professionally cleaned to make them move-in ready. Depending on the landlord, they may either require you to use their provided cleaning company, hire your own cleaning company, or in some cases allow you to deep clean yourself.

If the landlord decides to go with their own cleaning company, you don't have to worry about being liable for the cleaning job. However, if you are permitted to clean yourself or hire your own company and the job is not done to their standard, the landlord may deduct from your security deposit to hire a professional cleaning service.

To ensure your cleaning is up to standard, follow a move-out cleaning checklist if you decide to do the cleaning yourself, or follow up after the professional cleaning to make sure all standards are met.

4. Repair What You Can

Homes are meant to be lived in, but any damages to a home can result in deductions to your security deposit.

Commonly needed repairs, which you can likely do yourself, are small holes and chipped paint, often from taking down pictures, lights, or wall decor. Other repairs you can do yourself are minor scratches on wood or stains on carpets. Handling small damages rather than letting a landlord deal with them will save your safety deposit from being withheld.

Repairing Holes in Drywall

When it comes to small holes or chipped paint, a quick solution would be to use spackle.

For this process, you’ll need to:

  • Sand the area around the hole first to make sure it's smooth
  • Apply spackling paste
  • Scrape the excess paste until smooth
  • Let the remaining spackle dry
  • Sand the area one more time
  • Apply your paint

Landlords usually have spare paint containers at the property. If not, ask them what paint is used, and they can provide you with the necessary information.

Repairing Scratches and Stains on Floors

Scratches are a natural part of wear and tear. Depending on the scratch, you can avoid losing money from your security deposit by buffing out minor scratches. For stains — whether from wine, oil, blood, pets, or anything else — at-home stain removal treatments can help you get your full deposit back.

5. Have Documentation

close up of phone taking a picture

Whether you’re moving into a place or moving out, you should always take documentation in the form of writing and photographs of the home's condition. Without documentation, landlords have the ability to blame pre-existing issues on you and take repair costs from your security deposit.

Before moving into a home, walk around and take note of any scratches, peeling paint, wall damages, structural damages, leaking water, or any other issues that can compromise your security deposit. You should then send an email to your landlord or leasing agency of your findings to have documentation that you reported the problems.

Further, documenting the home’s condition after moving out provides a safeguard if any damages occur after you’ve completed your move-out requirements.

Additional Considerations for Getting Your Security Deposit Back

Kindness goes a long way, especially when you’re moving out of a rented home. Since landlords determine the severity of damages and whether or not a cleaning is acceptable, they ultimately decide whether or not you will get your security deposit back.

If you have been a disagreeable renter, your landlord is more likely to find reasons to take from your deposit. On the other hand, if you are known to be a kind renter, your landlord will likely be more willing to allow things to slide.

To learn more move-out tips and tricks, check out our other resources.

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Article written by Kayla Bisquera

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