What should a Tenant expect from their security deposit return?

money back from a rental
Photo Credit: EricGjerde via Compfight cc

Lets be honest, if you have ever been a Tenant in a rental property, one of the biggest questions is "how much should you get back of your security deposit?" Landlords and Property management companies struggle with this question as well, as the formula for deciding can be somewhat complex.

Lets start with some basic assumptions:

If you didn't have pets or children or if you didn't throw wild frat-like parties in the property, we can assume that the home has a decent chance of normal usage.

If you didn't hang an unordinary amount of pictures, punch holes in the walls, or smoke in the house, we can assume there are no major damages to the interior.

If the blinds still work and aren't chewed up, the air filter was changed regularly and you were smart enough to take all your personal possessions (whether you wanted to or not) with you when you moved out means you are probably in good shape.

There are a few last items that you should do to protect yourself and make sure you get the most money refunded from your security deposit.

  1. Have the home and the carpets professionally cleaned once all your personal possessions are out…show the Landlord and/or Management company the receipts (heck, make a copy for them).
  2. Change out all burnt out light bulbs.
  3. Make sure smoke detectors have fresh batteries.
  4. Change the air filters.
  5. Remove all weeds from the yard.
  6. Schedule the utilities to be shut off on the last day of the lease.

Look if you do these things, you control the price.  If you leave this to the management company or landlord, don't be surprised when the deductions are outrageous. Here are a few examples:

  1. If you don't have the home or carpet professionally cleaned, rather you just clean the home yourself, you can't prove that you actually cleaned the home and you may not be abiding by the lease terms. Not to mention, you will be stuck with the price of a random overpriced contractor (this will be a recurring theme).
  2. Contractors have to make a living, so even though you can change the air filters, batteries and light bulbs at your home for less than $25, the contractor has to go see the damage, then drive to home depot, front the money to purchase all the materials, and then take the time to actually make the repairs. What might normally be $25 can turn into $100 in the blink of an eye.
  3. If you leave your satellite dish, there are broken screens or there are dead plants, chances are you are going to pay some ridiculous amount to get this fixed.
  4. If you don’t turn in all the keys and remotes that are listed on your lease – there is probably a “rekey” fee in addition to the cost to make a copy or new key.

There are always going to be questions on what is “normal wear and tear” and this usually come into question with the condition of the walls and floors (or more appropriately paint and carpet) upon move-out.

Major stains are going to make it easy for a Landlord or Property Manager to charge the Tenant for replacement. The Landlord can charge the Tenant “per room” so if each room has a major stain, then be ready for a big bill.

carpet stains
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Painting, specifically touch up patching and painting is the toughest to call. Usually Tenants make it easy on Landlord’s by trying to do the touch up on their own…and they fail miserably. If there only a few nail holes in a room, and the holes are small, there usually will not be any charge. Tons of nail holes will probably require a charge.

There are also rubs on walls or miscellaneous marks that are going to require the same attention. Look if there are one or two or its minor in a room, you shouldn't have anything to worry about…if they are all over, well then get ready.

Lastly, remember that you should take a lot of pictures of the property on your way out. That being said, if you don’t do the same thing, and fill out your move-in walk thru or property condition statement in detail, then it won't matter. Now remember, if you go overboard or write down things that are excessive in your Move-in Walk thru statement, be ready for you not to be taken seriously…by both Landlords and the Courts.

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2 thoughts on “What should a Tenant expect from their security deposit return?

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  2. Its important to keep track of how old items are in the apartments. A 10 year old carpet for example would have a lot of wear and tear, one that's only 1 year or 2 on the other hand is a completely different story. Keep receipts of items purchased and repaired in apartments for at least 3 years.

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