Smart Renting Practices: Getting your Security Deposit Back



Many renters assume they will lose their security deposit, but in most cases, you deserve some of this money back! If you are a good tenant, someone who is respectful of the property and the owners, there should be no reason you should not receive part, if not all, of your security deposit back.


Listed below are ways to help avoid losing your security deposit:

• While looking for a place to rent, do a Web search for the property owner, landlord and the property manager's names. You want to know what previous renters have said or written about their experience with the landlord. This is a great way to rule out potential issues before you even sign the lease.

• Try to establish a good relationship with the homeowner and property manager. This seems obvious, but always be respectful and kind and NEVER put harsh words in writing. You want to maintain a professional relationship with the homeowner and property manager, so if a conflict does arise over your security deposit it can be handled in an amicable manner.

• Inventory the house thoroughly (even better if it is still empty). This includes a room by room detailed description of existing conditions and damages on a move in checklist as well as taking photos of your findings. Take LOTS of photos. Be excessive with your photos, be the paparazzi for your new place. You cannot be too prepared for a potential issue when you move out. Here is a sample move-in checklist. Print the photos that best document the existing condition of the house and turn them in with the move in checklist.

• Be present through the final walkthrough. This will give you an opportunity to "fix" any of the items the homeowner has an issue with (microwave not clean enough, holes in wall need to be filled in etc.) Fixing these items yourself, instead of having the homeowner for example pay a professional maid, will cost you less of your deposit.

• Double check with experts. If there is a question of damage being "normal wear and tear" versus renter neglect, call in a handy man/contractor, etc. In my case, they wanted to blame us for the laminate flooring lifting away from the foundation. Without testimony from a handy man that it was a natural process for the glue to loosen after time, I believe we would have been charged to replace the floor.

• Know your rights. You can check the deadline in your state for return of your security deposit. If the landlord does not refund the deposit in full, you can ask for an itemized list (with receipts) of the repairs made. This site is a great resource detailing specific state guidelines and tips if things go south.


• While living in a rental be vigilant about keeping the landlord aware of issues, damages and alert them immediately for repairs needed. The longer you wait to report that leaky sink, the more likely you could be responsible for the damages it causes. I like to notify the landlord and property manager via email, and I follow up if I have no response within 24 hours so there will be proof of notification (certified mail works well too).

Share your rental experiences in the comments!