Tips for Renters: Getting Your Security Deposit Back

Posted by Matthew Lahti on Monday, March 4th, 2013 at 12:52am

You’ve found the perfect place to rent, but your landlord wants a month’s rent up front as a security deposit.

You’ve found the perfect place to rent, but your landlord wants a month’s rent up front as a security deposit. While it might seem like a substantial move-in cost, you likely will see that money again when you move out. If your lease requires a refundable security deposit, follow the right steps to make sure it returns to your account when your lease ends.

Read the Lease

Your lease should answer your questions about the security deposit. It should explain how much you owe and where your landlord will keep the deposit. The lease should also explain what circumstances will result in the landlord keeping the security deposit. Finally, the lease should detail when and how the security deposit will be returned to you. Understanding these basics is the first step in ensuring you see that security deposit when you move out.

Go on a Walk-Through

Before you move in, schedule a walk-through of your rental with the landlord. You want to ensure that the unit is move-in ready. Look for any major cosmetic or maintenance issues. If there’s a crack in the ceiling, point it out to the landlord. If you hear a toilet running, ask your landlord to fix it before you move in. Make note of any issues, no matter how small, during your walk-through so that your landlord is aware of them.

Submit a Checklist

Ideally, your landlord will take care of the issues you pointed out during your walk-through before you move in. However, you might notice some minor issues upon move-in. Many landlords provide you with a checklist to complete, but even if yours doesn’t, document every problem. You don’t want to be charged for that stain on the carpet if it was there before you moved in. Organize the document into checklists for each room so that it is easy for your landlord to follow.

Report Maintenance Issues

Whether your rental is a new townhouse or a 1970s-era single-family home, it is likely to have at least one maintenance issue during your lease. Report the problem to your landlord right away.

Your landlord is responsible for fixing the problem and covering the cost, one of the advantages of renting over owning. Don’t let a minor issue turn into a major one. Your landlord will still take care of it, but you don’t want that leaking faucet to turn into a major flood in your rental. Moreover, reporting maintenance issues when they occur means that your landlord won’t face a laundry list of problems when you move out. If he or she does, you might be blamed for some of the problems, putting your security deposit at risk.

Provide Forwarding Address 

When you turn in your keys, also give your landlord your new address. Providing the address leaves your landlord without an excuse if your security deposit doesn’t turn up in the promised time frame. For added protection, you can send your landlord a letter with your new address via certified mail so that you have proof that he or she received it. Should you have to go to small claims court to get your security deposit, this documentation will prove useful.


A refundable security deposit should not deter you from renting a unit. Your landlord is simply protecting the property in case you damage it during your lease. If you take care of your rental property, report any maintenance problems as they occur, and have an open line of communication with your landlord, you will see that security deposit again when your lease ends.

By Barbie Carpenter


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