Steps to getting all or most of your Security Deposit back

March 8, 2016 010photo by Eva 2016

When you rent, it’s a customary procedure that you will be required to pay a security deposit up front…usually one month’s rent.

My daughter recently moved to a new apartment, spent quite a bit of time cleaning the old one and when I asked her if she’d gotten her security deposit back, she replied that they had kept $160 of it…$60 for replacing lightbulbs and $100 for the cleaning service.

I decided to do a little research and see what exactly the guidelines are for renters in order to get their security deposits returned.  There are a lot of good tips out there…some I’d never thought of…so the next time you move to a new place, keep them in mind.


A. Before you even rent or move in:

Google the leasing company, landlord’s name, property name, check the Better Business Bureau’s online business listings for the leasing company/landlord’s name.  If there are any negative comments there, look for a different place.

B. When you move in:

1. Read your lease carefully and understand everything that is in it BEFORE you sign it.  Lease clauses can be edited or changed if it is agreed upon by both the landlord and the tenant.

2. Is there a walk-through condition form?  The walk-through condition form is a checklist of the rooms.  If they don’t give you one, then you make one up yourself.

A walk-through condition form is to be completed within 48 hours of moving in…preferably you should do it as soon as you receive the keys.  Walk from room to room inspecting it and writing down anything you see that is not in perfect condition.  It is also recommended that you take photographs and date them digitally if possible.

Turn the walk-through condition form in to your landlord and have them  sign the copy for you to keep.  If you can’t  get your landlord to do this, then send the copy of it via registered mail.  The reason you do this is if at some later date something breaks or happens while you are there.

C. While you are living there:

1. Know the rules of your lease and follow them.  Have them in writing…regarding customizing(paint, lights), whether you are permitted to have pets(what kind) and rules for terminating your lease, etc.

2. If there is a problem with any part of the apartment while you are living there(something breaks from normal wear and tear), the landlord is responsible to pay for it.  If they don’t and you decide to fix it yourself, take a photograph of it(before and after) and keep records of the costs/receipts and then bill the landlord for the item immediately.

D. Moving out:

1. When you are leaving that apartment and you have cleaned it, do the whole walk through and picture scenario again.  If possible, have the landlord do the walk through with you and sign the agreement that you have left the apartment in acceptable order. has a move out cleaning checklist.  Here are the basics

1. Take out nails and screws out of walls and ceilings and putty them smoothly.

2. Dust the ceiling fixtures, dust all ledges, clean the windows, clean the door knobs and doors, clean all light switches and outlets, clean the walls and baseboards, vacuum and get stains out of carpet/clean carpet, get rid of all cobwebs.

3. Bathroom: get soap scum off bathroom tiles and tub/shower and bleach the grout, clean out the bathroom drawers and vanity, clean the toilet, sink, countertop and floor, replace the toilet seat if it’s disgusting, clean the mirror, vacuum out the surface of the exhaust fan.

4. Kitchen: clean out all cabinets and drawers, wash front of cabinets, clean and disinfect all countertops, clean and shine up the sink and faucet, scrub refrigerator inside and out, scrub oven inside and out.  Removed shelving, drip pans and burners, clean out the dishwasher, clean the exhaust fan.

5. Bedroom and Living Room: Dust, sweep, vacuum, mop

6. Garage: empty and sweep

7. Outside: porch/deck/balcony: cut grass, pull weeds, remove all of your belongings that may be there.

Landlords may charge tenants for any cleaning or repairs needed to restore the unit to its’ condition at the beginning of the tenancy.  They may not use the security deposit to cover costs of ordinary wear and tear(faded paint on the walls, minor marks or nicks on the wall, worn gaskets on refrigerator doors, water stained linoleum by the shower, toilet flushes inadequately because of mineral deposits and a run worn thin by normal use.

One last point…each state has it’s own requirements regarding security deposits.  If you have any questions, look up your state’s requirements.

I hope you found this informative…I know there were a lot of points that I wasn’t aware of before researching this.

til next time…Eva

Note: SWXE recommended that whenever you have any communication with your landlord, write on the bottom of it:  COPY: File (and date it).  That way your landlord knows that you are keeping track of it.

Resource  Information from the following websites: