3 Things You Should Know About Your Security Deposit

We've all been there. You move out of an old apartment, and then you are faced with trying to collect your security deposit. It can be a painful waiting game to see if you are going to get your money back, especially since you might be trying to scrape together cash for your new place. The great news is that by understanding how security deposits work, you can improve your chances of seeing that money again. Here are three things you should know about your security deposit.

1: Documentation Is Key

By the time most people find the perfect place, the last thing they want to do is mess things up by being nitpicky about the contract. Unfortunately, failing to read through your rental agreement and properly document the conditions of your apartment can mean big time expenses later on.

Before you sign anything involved with your new apartment, it is important to read everything. Make sure you understand the rules you are required to abide by, and then put them into action. For example, if your property owner has rules against pet ownership, then you are probably going to want to get rid of your parakeet in order to get your deposit back.

It is also important to go through your new place with a fine-toothed comb when you move in. Record every scratch, carpet problem, appliance issue, smell, or electrical concern you encounter. Take pictures of problem areas, and make sure your camera date-stamps the images. By doing this, you will be able to prove that you didn't cause the damage, which will keep you from paying for it later.

As you live in the apartment, document how different problems were handled. For example, if your dishwasher breaks, keep service records and proof of contact with your landlord. This can help you prove that you didn't neglect issues, and show how you dealt with the problem.

2: Damage Could Cost You

Although it might be tempting to deck your apartment out with interesting paint schemes or nifty shelves, damage can cost you dearly. Security deposits are put in place in order to help the property owner to mitigate the costs of preparing your old apartment for a new tenant. Any damage you cause to your apartment could be subject to expensive repairs later.

It is important to note that landlords are not allowed to charge you for any damage which could have been caused by normal use. This means if you live in an apartment for ten years and the carpet develops traffic wear patterns, you will not be responsible for replacing it.

Ideally, you would leave your apartment in the exact same condition as you found it in. In order to get your security deposit back, document any problems, and leave your place immaculate and damage-free.

3: Landlords Have Rules, Too

You aren't the only one with rules regarding your apartment rental experience. Property owners are subject to state laws regarding the proper procedures for returning your deposit. Here are a few rules that your landlord has to be mindful of.

  • Timeframe For Returned Deposits: Most places require landlords to return security deposits within 21 days of a tenant vacating the premise. If you haven't heard from your property owner for weeks and weeks, they might be in violation of state law.
  • How Much They Can Deduct For Damage: Are you worried about being charged exorbitant rates for replacing carpet or repainting walls? Each province has its own rules regarding how much a landlord can deduct for damage. Some places only allow a landlord to take a full months rent, while other places have no limit. Become familiar with the laws in your state to know what you might be required to pay.
  • Explanations For Reduced Deposits: Most of the time, landlords are required to explain to you the reasons for reduced security deposits. If you get back less than you think you should have, ask your landlord to explain the charges.  

In general, property owners like to return deposits. In addition to not having to deal with confrontational situations, they also won't have to worry about extensive repairs to their income property.

Understanding how security deposits work can help you to eliminate undue stress, and collect your hard-earned cash.