5 Tips for Protecting Your Security Deposit
Nothing is worse for a tenant than anticipating your security deposit return, only to find out that the entire amount has gone towards repairing property damages, and there’s nothing left.
But handing over a security deposit is not a lost cause. There are actually ways you can maximize the amount you get back from your deposit because you as the tenant have the power to control the majority of what happens to the property you live in.
Here are 5 tips on how to protect your security deposit (and earn yourself a glowing reference, to boot):
1. Read the Lease Checklists Carefully
Before you sign, go through the lease and understand what does and does not get taken from the deposit. In Michigan, the landlord/PMC is allowed and expected to deduct back rent or unpaid utility bills from the security deposit at the end of the lease (although this varies state to state).
The landlord should provide you a copy of the lease with all these details, as well as two blank copies of the inventory checklist, showing the condition of all items in the property. Complete the checklist, note everything you can about the current condition (add pages if you need to), immediately make a request for any fixes required, save a copy for yourself, and give a signed copy back to the landlord within a week after moving in (unless otherwise stated in the lease).
If you skip some steps or are late in completing this process, it’ll be harder to protect your deposit during disagreements, because it will be your word against the landlords.
2. Address Maintenance Issues Immediately
Similarly, any time that issues with the property arise during your tenancy, immediately inform your landlord or property manager within the timeframe stated in your lease, otherwise, you’ll risk these being deducted from your deposit. Depending on the problem and how it was caused, it may be your responsibility as a tenant to cover the cost of repairs, but most of the time these costs will be significantly lower if the issue is addressed right away. For example, you may have to shell out a little bit of money for repairing a window that was broken, but replacing the entire window fitting and wall because it got water damage will end up being a much bigger deduction from your deposit down the line. So don’t delay in getting issues fixed and reporting them to your landlord, however small they may seem.
3. Protect Carpets
Recarpeting a single room can run upwards of $500, so taking care of these during your tenancy will help you avoid huge deductions from your security deposit for replacing them. When moving out, you should always deep clean all carpets in the property, and if there are any stains you can’t get out, expect to pay for recarpeting the area – so the best idea is to try to avoid staining altogether. You can put down floor rugs to cover high-traffic areas, avoid eating or drinking in carpeted spaces, and get a carpet cleaner (not just a vacuum) to lift dirt and debris before they turn into set-in stains.
4. Remember Lawn Care
A lot of tenants let maintaining a property’s outside space become a secondary priority (especially in the winter months). However, landscapers and lawn mowing is another common security deposit deduction that can run into the hundreds of dollars, and can be easily avoided by maintaining your yard throughout the tenancy. You should hand over your rental with the garden in the same condition as when you moved in, so make sure it’s been f , pruned, and weeded before you move out – but don’t leave this until the last day of your tenancy to sort out. Letting plants get overgrown for a year and then chopping it all back the day before you leave will make the garden look dead and patchy, and you’ll still end up getting charged for landscapers to come in and revitalize it.
5. Clean, Repair Before You Go
Cleaning can often be one of the most expensive deductions from a security deposit. Labor costs for cleaning a rental property, removing trash, and carrying out even minor repairs – like damage to drywall – are charged by the hour, and can run anywhere from $25 to $100 hourly, for specialized repairmen. Making sure that you leave the property spotless, and restore the walls to their original condition by filling in nail holes, etc., is a great way to help minimize these costs and get the most out of your security deposit when you move out. If you do it yourself, t
If you’ll forget everything else we’ve mentioned here–you only need to remember this: take care of your rental home like it’s your own house. Looking after it consistently is the best way to keep your security deposit intact. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that, since you don’t own it, maintenance of your property isn’t your problem–because it will become your problem when the damages are charged against your security deposit.
A lot of little things can add up to a big deduction by the time you move out. But if you protect your security deposit enough to get even around a full month’s rent back, it will greatly help you with your moving expenses and paying for your next security deposit. Your landlord will also be happy that you’ve left their property in good shape, and that information will get passed to your future landlords. It’s a win-win solution!
Any other tips you’d care to share to help tenants get the most out of their security deposits?
Image Courtesy of Karolina Gabrowska