I’ve lived in several rentals over the years ranging from townhouses to apartments to vacation homes, and they all have different rules about how to get your security deposit back once you vacate the space. I’ve learned a few tricks to ensure you get every penny back after renting, and today I’ve partnered with the WD-40 brand to spill the beans on how you can recoup your security deposit no matter what type of rental or how long you rent!
Now that we’ve handed the apartment keys back over to the landlord, I can say the following tips for getting back your security deposit served us well. We’ve also implemented them when renting at the beach; many agencies have high standards so it’s important to know the rules before you rent. After all, getting those buckaroos back means they can go towards moving expenses, something nice for your new digs, or a special meal to celebrate.
8 Tips for Getting Back Your Rental Security Deposit
1. Learn the expectations prior to move-in day.
Communication is key. Ask your landlord in advance what is expected upon moving out. Are you allowed to paint the walls? Do nail holes need to be repaired? For the final clean, is a wipe-down and vacuuming enough or do they expect a deep clean? Many require an additional deposit or fee if you have a pet– what does that fee cover? Listening to their responses to these questions can help you gauge how much is expected upon vacating and how determining how strict their policy truly is. Some landlords don’t want a single nail hole while others will let you paint the walls however you wish as long as you paint it back when moving out. Know before you go!
2. Note any issues on paper (and photograph them) before you move into the rental.
Many apartment complexes will have a form to sign where you note any damage prior to move-in. Be specific and take photos if you can! When I rented my very first apartment they wanted to charge me for the prior tenant’s bleach spots on the carpet (when I didn’t even own any bleach) because I didn’t note it on the form before moving day. When I moved into the next apartment I noted everything on the form (even minor details, like a small hole in the screen) and they came and actually fixed it.
3. Use adhesive backed hangers and hooks instead of nails to hang items.
While it makes me cringe now, one of the tips we used in college was to fill in nail holes with toothpaste. EEK! Obviously the correct way is to use spackle, sand it down, and repaint the area which is a chore (especially when trying to pack and move.) Instead, forgo the entire ‘nail hole’ thing and use adhesive backed hooks and picture hangers instead. We did this all over our apartment and it made a huge difference! We used adhesive backed hooks for towels, coats, and backpacks. The picture hanging strips worked beautifully for the few pieces of art and the dry erase boards we hung on the wall. When it was time to move, we simply pulled down the adhesive strip on each hook and hanger and were good to go in under five minutes.
4. Line your fridge with plastic placemats for easy cleanup.
Cut cheap placemats from the Dollar Store to fit your fridge drawers and shelves and lay them under your food. This makes it a cinch to clean your fridge and keep it looking in top shape while living there, then simply remove and give the fridge a quick wipe-down on your way out!
5. Keep a can of Spot Shot® Instant Carpet Stain Remover on hand at all times.
Purchase a can of Spot Shot when you move in and use as needed to get out carpet stains. Our apartment had carpet EVERYWHERE, including in the eating area and in the bathroom too (ick.) We liked to use the Spot Shot immediately as needed, but it takes out old stains as well (which is awesome when you have kids and might not notice that chunk of spaghetti sauce until the next day.) Then, check the floors after you move out in case there are areas you might have missed. We were surprised to see a strip of dirt in front of our couch once we moved it out. Spot Shot took care of it quickly and the carpet looked good as new.
6. Don’t spend hours cleaning dirty stovetop drip pans, replace with new ones instead.
Oh man, this tip has saved me hours of elbow grease! It’s a pain to try to clean your stovetop drip pans (also called burner bowls.) Instead of wasting your time, recycle the old ones and buy new ones instead. They are only a few dollars and that small investment can save you hours of soaking, scrubbing and cleaning!
7. Contact management as soon as you notice any damage.
Instead of waiting until the end of your lease, if you notice something is broken or damaged contact management right away. Usually they will fix it for you, and it’s better to do this during your lease as opposed to being surprised by hidden charges at the end.
8. Check inside and around all drawers, shelves, cabinets and floors before turning over your keys.
While you probably wouldn’t lose your deposit over a random LEGO on the floor, it pays to double check the entire space from top to bottom so you don’t miss anything important. Be sure to use a ladder to reach tall cabinets, closet shelves, and look above the fridge as well, you never know what you might find. If you have kids, have them look behind doors, in closets and around room perimeters on their level too. Management could charge you a disposal fee if you leave something messy or large, and as for small items YOU might not be sad about leaving behind a stray LEGO but someone else will. 😉
All in all, a little legwork before you move in and a few cleaning tips while living there can save you A LOT of money when you move out. Implement these tricks and let me know when your security deposit arrives back in the mail; I’ll let you treat me to a cup of coffee with all those extra dolla bills. 😉
Disclosure: many thanks to the WD-40 brand and Spot Shot Instant Carpet Stain Remover for sponsoring the contents of this post!