How to Get Your Rent Deposit Returned
The rent deposit is a protection for the landlord against costly damages or repairs left by a tenant who disappears. The amount of the rent deposit varies from landlord to landlord. One month’s rent is a common amount, but it isn’t unusual to be asked to pay more. There are a numbers of steps that tenants can and should take to ensure that they have the rent deposit returned at the conclusion of the lease agreement.
Know What the Lease Says About the Rent Deposit
Experts recommend that tenants read the lease before signing on to live in an apartment. The lease should include a section that talks about a rent or damage deposit. Make sure you understand the landlord’s rules regarding the amount of the deposit and the process to get the rent deposit returned. Often, the landlord will conduct an inspection of the apartment and make a decision about how much – if any – of the deposit should be returned. Remember that if you disagree with any of the provisions of the lease, you have options. You can insist that new clauses be written into the lease, which is perfectly legal as long as both you and the landlord initial the clause. You can also decide to try a different apartment.
Improving Your Chances to Get Your Rent Deposit Returned
- Report damage immediately. If there is a storm that causes damage to your apartment, that is not your responsibility. Notify your landlord immediately about the damage and document the damage so that your landlord doesn’t try to hold back some of the rent deposit for that repair.
- Document the apartment condition. Take pictures of your empty apartment before you leave. Be sure to include any areas of minor damage. As landlords prepare empty apartments for new tenants, it isn’t unusual for minor damage to become worse. Your pictures will prove the state of the apartment when you left.
- Ask for a walk-through. Even if the lease doesn’t call for it, ask the landlord for a walkthrough as you leave the apartment. You may be able to get your rent deposit on the spot, or at least understand what areas of damage will be deducted from the deposit.
- Leave forwarding address. Don’t let a check from your old landlord get lost in the mail as you go from one apartment to another.
- Consider small claims court. State regulations usually give landlords up to a month to return a rent deposit. If you haven’t heard from your landlord, or if you disagree about the amount, you can take up the issue in small claims court. Initiating the process could persuade the landlord to make a fair settlement offer.