Getting your deposit back when it's time to move out of a rental house is sometimes difficult. The process of keeping your deposit begins when you move in, and continues until you have the check in your hand.
Be Honest Upfront
The road to successfully recouping your damage deposit begins when you move in. Most landlords and rental companies will supply you with a damage checklist, but this isn't enough if you have problems later.
Do a full inspection of the property before you bring over any of your belongings – as soon as you get the keys. If possible, make sure the landlord or a representative is present during the inspection. Even if they aren't, you will still want to get the move-in checklist signed and you will need to keep a copy for yourself.
Write down everything, even the most minute damages. Take pictures of any damage you do find, and keep this with your checklist in your records. When you move out, this will be all you have to prove that you weren't responsible for the damage.
Clean Out Everything
In the rush to move it's easy to overlook items, but you don't want to get dinged with a hefty haul-out fee because you left a stash of cleaning supplies under the bathroom sink. If you do leave something with the agreement of the landlord, get the agreement in writing. For example, you may decide to leave behind a large appliance because you don't need it at the new place. Your landlord may then charge you for removal if the next tenant doesn't want it. If you have the agreement to leave it behind in writing, your landlord won't be able to hold you responsible for the removal fee.
Give It a Good Scrub
It's a good rule of thumb to leave a place cleaner than it was at move-in when it's time to move out. You will need to wash every surface in the house, including the walls and ceilings. The kitchen and bathroom usually suffer from the most grime, so these areas require special consideration.
Even with a thorough cleaning, your landlord will likely bring in a cleaning crew after you leave. In some locations this is required by law. The cost of the crew may be inflated to a flat rate, making it more expensive than if you hired the crew yourself. If it's legal in your area and your landlord allows it, hire your own move-out cleaning crew like Kathy's Quality Cleaning, Inc. to give the place a thorough scrub. In some localities, all you need to do is provide a receipt to prove that the home underwent a professional cleaning upon move-out.
When cleaning, don't skip the carpet. This is another place where professional cleaning is often necessary. Verify your lease requirements and the laws in your area before trying to clean the carpet yourself.
Follow Up and Know Your Rights
Your landlord can only return your deposit if they can find you. Make sure you supply a forwarding address and follow up with the landlord within one week of moving out if you don't hear anything.
If money is subtracted from your deposit, request an itemized list of each reason and the cost. Verify the information with your lease to make sure you really are responsible for the charges. Knowing the tenant laws in your locale is also vital. For example, in some areas the landlord must repaint the walls at specific intervals or after each tenant. If they try to charge you for repainting, when it is already the landlord's responsibility, you can usually fight to get your money back successfully.
Arming yourself with knowledge and being a responsible tenant is the best way to get your deposit back. A landlord-tenant agreement is a legal document, so make sure you know your rights.