Though this site’s primary purpose is to provide advice for homeowners, we want to acknowledge the population of Americans currently renting their residences. This group is significant; according to the Pew Research Center, more U.S. households are renting now than they have at any point in the past fifty years. Many of these leases require a security deposit, and retaining those funds serves as a point of stress for most renters. Below, we have detailed a few strategies for getting your security deposit back.
Have a plan when you move in. Take necessary precautions when decorating your new apartment. If you have a security deposit, you may want to consider using poster putty and removable hooks to hang items rather than drilling holes into the wall. Use felt pads to protect wood floors from scratches and put carpets under rolling chairs to limit damage.
Document everything. When you move in, photograph every room in the apartment. This will allow you to use evidence if the landlord disputes your later claims. If you notice anything wrong with the apartment when you move in, alert the landlord immediately—even if it is just a simple hole from a hung picture.
Clean thoroughly. If you want all of your deposit money back, plan to do a serious deep clean before moving out of the apartment. This includes behind and beneath appliances, plus small details like light switches, door frames, and baseboards. You may want to hire a professional.
Complete necessary repairs. Replace light bulbs, fill nail holes, and unclog drains. Paint a coat of the original paint color on walls with scuffs or holes; if your security deposit is more than what a professional asks, it may make sense to hire someone to complete the painting job.
Research local laws. Most states require a landlord to provide explanation for withholding security deposit funds. Research local renter’s rights related to security deposits at the city, county, and state level. Start your research on the website of the state’s attorney general and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.