When talking finance and renting, the discussion inevitably involves the security deposit. This is an upfront cost paid at the beginning of the contract as a guarantee from the new tenant that they will keep the apartment in proper condition and respect the terms of the contract. Usually, this cost ranges between 100% and 200% of the monthly rent, so it represents a significant expense in the rental process.
At the end of the lease, the apartment is inspected by the landlord and—provided no significant damage was done and no terms were broken—the sum is returned to the tenant. However, there are plenty of reasons for the landlord to refuse returning the security deposit, and you should know how to prevent that. This is not an issue to think about just when moving out, but during the entire renting process. Here’s what you should know in order to not lose your security deposit.
Before Moving In
If you’ve found the perfect rental, the leasing process begins with reading the contract and signing the documents. At this stage, you want to take your time to carefully go through the agreement and discuss various issues with your landlord. If there are any vague claims in the contract or if one issue you’re concerned about is not covered, ask the landlord for clarifications and record this in writing.
Discuss definitions; the ‘normal’ wear and tear might mean something else for you and something different for the landlord. It’s very important to be on the same page about what constitutes damage that causes the loss of the deposit.
Before moving in, take pictures and notes of the apartment’s condition and show them to your landlord. These will represent objective proof of the initial state of the apartment, and you can use them when moving out if any issues are raised.
During Living There
It’s important to be mindful of the apartment while living there. For any modifications you want to make, ask for your landlord’s permission in writing. If accidents occur—such as spilling coffee or wine on the walls, scratching the wooden floors, and others—try to counter the damage as soon as possible.
If you have a pet, that is already going to mean an extra fee on the security deposit. The damage your pet will make is quite inevitable, but you can try your best to prevent accidents. Invest in rugs and carpets that are easy to clean and will protect your floors from scratches. Get scratching posts for your cats and chewing toys for your dogs to prevent damage done to furniture. Understand their behavior and their needs and try to cater to them as best you can, since comfortable pets are going to be less problematic to the condition of the apartment.
Another aspect is how you get along with both your neighbors and your landlord. it’s important to have a positive relationship in order to create trust and respect. If there are no complaints from neighbors either, it means that you’ve been a mindful tenant and this will add points in your favor as well.
Before Moving Out
Let’s say that you got a great job opportunity and you have to move. You’ve started browsing for apartments for rent in Houston, your next home, and you’ve found your fit. There are some things you must do now. First, notify the landlord about your intention as per your contract. The notice is usually required 60 or 30 days in advance, but always check again before sending it.
The next step is to clean everything. If you have the means, hire a cleaning service to make sure all the difficult areas are spotless. If you don’t want to invest in this, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. The problematic spots are the corners—especially those where junk accumulates—and areas behind and under the furniture. Clean the carpets and polish the floors, dust off lamps and any lighting system you have to make sure the light goes through completely.
You should remove anything that might smell and open the windows for long periods of time, to make sure it smells fresh. An important trick is to polish the appliances; clean up everything in the kitchen and the bathroom until it sparkles. By making sure the apartment is clean, you increase your chances significantly.
There’s no need to stress yourself over the security deposit as long as there’s transparency and respect between you and your landlord. By following these tips, you’ll reduce the risks of losing your security deposit and you’ll have a more relaxed time while renting.