Considering a security deposit on an apartment is no small chunk of change – usually equivalent to one or two months of rent – getting it back when you move out is pretty important. Here are a few things that you can do as a tenant to help ensure you do not lose your security deposit when you move out.
Know Your Lease
The first and biggest mistake that tenants make is not reading the lease before they sign it. If there is anything that you don’t agree with or understand, discuss these points with the landlord before you move into your apartment. Often a security deposit is forfeited because the tenant and landlord have different definitions of “ordinary wear and tear” and “reasonable effort”, so get clarification and make sure you are both on the same page.
Document Existing Damages
Many security deposit disputes occur because the landlord and tenant did not properly document existing damage prior to the move-in date, so it’s important to request a walk-through of the apartment. Some property management companies and landlords use a checklist, which both parties sign, but it’s also a good idea to take photos or a video using your phone, so that you can refer back to it, if needed. Make sure to note any stains on the carpet or holes in the walls.
Get Written Permission
Before you make any improvements, modifications or repairs to your Oak Park apartment, ask your landlord for written permission. Even if your lease doesn’t specifically forbid customization, or you think the landlord won’t mind, it is always better to be safe than sorry. While a new paint color, upgraded lighting or bathroom fixtures may seem like a good idea to you, it’s important to remember that you do not own the property and your landlord has the final say.
Watch Your Pets
For tenants with pet-friendly apartments, a furry family member is often to blame when the security deposit is not returned in full. If your dog is a chewer or has separation anxiety, consider crating him or her when you are not home to prevent damage to the apartment and your personal belongings. Rugs and runners are also great for protecting hardwood floors from your dog’s nails.
Cats, on the other hand, cause some of the most costly damage. The smell of at urine is extremely difficult and expensive to remove, often requiring the landlord to pull up the carpet and underlying pads, and then seal it and clean it. So take special care to avoid accidents and ensure they are cleaned up immediately if they do happen.
Clean & Repair
Many leases and rental agreements require the tenant to clean their apartment upon moving out. Check your lease for specifics, but in the very least, the space should be “broom swept”. Once all the furniture has been moved out, give the entire apartment a once over. Clean the refrigerator and oven, vacuum, mop and wipe down baseboards, as well as counters, sinks, toilets and tubs. All garbage, furniture any belongings should be removed. If the landlord has to pay to dispose of anything, he or she may take the fee out of your security deposit.
For more helpful tips, check out How to Secure an Apartment in a Competitive Market or Tips on Splitting Bills with Roommates.