Tuesday, 20 August 2019
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This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

Getting Back Your Rental Security Deposit

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 14 August 2019 16:25

Security Deposits are something almost every renter has to come up with before moving into a new property. The amount of the deposit can fluctuate based on the perceived risk of the particular tenant. 

It’s important that tenants understand the purpose of this deposit and what it might be used for before writing that check.

The security deposit is a small insurance policy for the landlord. Although each individual state is responsible for maintaining its own tenant/landlord laws, the fundamental aspects of the rules regarding security deposits are similar from state to state. The security deposit is intended to cover the following:

  • Unpaid rents
  • Cleaning to return the property to move-in condition
  • Repair for any damages that are not normal wear and tear
  • Repair or replacement of personal property, things like keys, appliances, furniture or televisions.

One important distinction about the security deposit is that it is not to be used in lieu of the last month's rent unless this was pre-negotiated or stated in the lease agreement. Using the deposit for rent creates a bookkeeping nightmare in the event any repairs or cleaning need to be deducted from the security deposit. 

It's best to keep monies separate when doing the end of lease accounting. Mixing up these funds can cause some real problems and in some cases may even activate late fees. 

The landlord is certainly not looking to deduct funds from the security deposit. most landlords are ecstatic at the prospect of taking back a rental property with no issues. Security deposit disputes and disagreements occur when the landlord and the Tenant aren't on the same page when it comes to the expectations of the condition of the property. 

Getting on the Same Page

Cleaning and damages are the two areas of the security deposit equation that the tenant can control, so let’s start with cleaning. The standard reason for a landlord to use security deposit funds for cleaning is to bring the property back to “move-in ready” condition. Although this standard can be a little subjective, the best way to judge this is to compare it to when you moved in. 

Pictures and videos are a great way to document the condition of the property. The landlord should actually be the one to photo document the property condition prior to your move-in date. It’s also a great practice for the landlord to share that information with the tenant. In the event this information is not shared with you, it’s completely reasonable to take your own pictures. Make sure to document the condition immediately, once movers start coming in and unpacking begins, it gets difficult to convince the landlord or worse, the small claims court judge that the problems weren’t caused by you or your movers.

Make sure the date/time stamp is visible on your pictures, this helps in court as well. Once you have taken your move-in pictures, send a copy to the landlord. It’s a good idea to include a note that lets them know you took the move-in process seriously and just wanted to make sure you were both on the same page as far as property condition was concerned. 

You should save these photos until the end of the lease term. In the event, there is a question as to the condition of the property at move-in photos are a great way to jog the memory.

Pre-Inspection Walk Through

Another great way to be on the same page as the landlord at move out time is to perform a pre move out inspection. This is a simple informal walkthrough, where the property manager or landlord can point out or list anything they see that might end up coming out of the deposit. 

This is a great time to clarify with your move-in photos if the condition was pre-existing. If the landlord has done a good job in documenting the original move-in condition, this walkthrough should end up producing a list of repairs and/or cleaning you already knew you need to do, or it should highlight anything you weren’t aware of.

This is not the time to argue about every potential deduction the landlord mentions but rather a time to collect information about what they see. Once you have compiled this list, you can proceed to assemble any photo or video evidence you have to the contrary. 

Cleaning List 

A cleaning list is a great way for the tenant to understand the level of cleaning the landlord is expecting. In our Colorado Springs Property Management Company, we use a very simple list that seems to work well. Ask your landlord for a list of what they expect from your cleaning and make sure you complete everything on the list.

If you are having the home professionally cleaned, give them the list. this is a good idea because if there are issues with the quality of work, the landlord can call the cleaners back to bring the property up to standard. 

In Conclusion

The goal is to return the property to the landlord in the same condition as the tenant found it. The best way to accomplish this is to communicate and work with the landlord to reach this goal.

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Joe Boylan

I have been a Colorado Springs Realtor since 1997 and as a first-year agent, I received the Real Trends Magazine, "Rookie of the Year" Award. Since then I have participated in hundreds of real estate transactions.
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