How to Protect Your Security Deposit

Have you ever had to fight to get back your security deposit? Ray, a renter from Brooklyn, contacted his landlord every week for six months trying to get his $2,000 security deposit after moving out of his first apartment. He never saw a cent. To make sure your security deposit is safe, try our checklist.

When you move in.

The process of safeguarding your deposit starts when your lease does. Before you move in your stuff, be sure to:

  • Document the state of your rental. Make a list of all preexisting damage and take time-stamped pictures.
  • Understand the terms of your lease. Clarify which of the fees you pay are part of the deposit and what kinds of damage can be charged to you upon move-out.

Before you leave.

For the duration of your lease and before you move out, don’t forget to:

  • Report to your landlord any repairs that need to be made that aren’t your responsibility. From a broken oven to a faulty doorbell, make sure your landlord takes care of everything during the lease, so you’re not stuck paying for it later. Document these interactions for your own protection.
  • Revert the rental back to the state it was in before you moved in. If you painted the walls, repaint them to the same color they were at the beginning of your lease. If you used tacks or nails to decorate, patch up the holes.

After you’ve moved out.

Try to move out your belongings before your lease ends. A lot of what you need to do to protect your deposit is easier if the apartment is empty. For example:

  • Clean the empty apartment, including the oven and fridge.
  • Document the state of your rental with time-stamped photos.
  • Schedule a walk-through with your landlord so they can tell you any repairs or cleaning you’ll need to do before your lease ends.

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