My wife and I are about to become renters for the first time in over five years. We'll only be renting for a short period of time while we wait for our new home to be built, but we'll still face all of the challenges many renters deal with every whenever they rent from a new landlord. Sometimes renting can is the best choice for you but there are many risks that come with renting.
One of the biggest challenges is getting your security deposit back. While some landlords only withhold any part of your security deposit for legitimate issues, such as not cleaning the oven or putting a hole in the wall, other landlords will nickel and dime you to keep as much of your security deposit as possible. If you want to keep your security deposit, make sure you do the following when you rent your next home or apartment. We'll be doing every single thing on this list to protect ourselves, too.
1. Take Detailed Move-in Pictures or Videos
Make sure you take detailed pictures or videos on or before the first day of the lease. These pictures or videos will show the condition of the rental before you moved in, which may be key in determining which issues you may have caused while living in the rental. Get close-ups of any dirty or stained areas and of any other damage you find.
Make sure you can tell what part of the apartment the pictures are showing. After all, an up-close picture of a tile could be anywhere.
2. Fill Out a Move-in Inspection Form in Detail
Pictures and videos are great for evidence, but most landlords require you to fill out a move-in inspection form in writing. Be very detailed when you fill this out, as the landlord will likely use that form as the official condition of move in. If there are cracked tiles, note the number of cracked tiles and location. The more specific you are, the better protected you'll be and you'll also make sure you're paying the right amount for your rent.
3. Get Verbal Assurances in Writing
Landlords are notorious for telling you something verbally, but not standing by that verbal assurance later.
Read your lease carefully. It probably says that the written lease governs everything and that no verbal assurances have been made. If the landlords say that something won't be a problem – or that you won't get charged for a condition that already exists prior to move in – make sure to get the assurance in writing. And if they give you a hard time, refer to the lease, and they should comply.
4. Read Your Lease Carefully
Make sure you read your whole lease before you sign it. This may prompt you to ask some important questions. We found out that we'll have to pay for shampooing, deodorizing, and treating the apartment for fleas when we move out because we have a dog. And many leases require you to get all carpets professionally cleaned before the end of the lease, whether you have a pet or not. These items won’t surprise you if you read the lease.
If you don't complete those requirements, chances are that you'll lose money from your security deposit.
5. Schedule a Move-Out Inspection Before Your Lease Ends
Another great way to get your full security deposit back is to schedule a move-out inspection. Have the landlord walk the property with you and note anything they may charge against your security deposit. You should have a chance to fix any issues if there’s time before your lease ends. However, if the inspection happens after your lease ends, you probably won't be able to correct issues, and you'll just have to accept the charges against your security deposit.
It may seem frustrating that you have to do all of this work to keep your full security deposit. Unfortunately, that's just how renting works. It makes more sense to protect yourself by doing a little bit of work. Don't just hope that you'll get your security deposit back in full.