We have all heard horrible stories of unscrupulous landlords. So-called ‘slum lords’ who don’t make repairs to their property. But more notorious than them are greedy property owners. The most misery landlords who hold on to every little penny of the tenant’s security deposit. In this article we’ll provide you with some tips and tricks on how to get your security deposit back after a move. Don’t feel bad or uncomfortable for asking your complete security deposit back because this is your money and the landlord can’t keep it. So, before you hire tenancy cleaners or a dedicated moving company, learn first how to get your security deposit back and maybe you will throw a party in your new home with all the money you’ll save.
Here is the complete list of tenant tips for ending a tenancy and getting your deposit back:
Before you move in the property
Make sure you research your leasing agent or company. Look for feedback on your landlord’s background, the neighborhood and anything else you could find for your new housing. According to Mark Whitman from Accelerate Homes running a background check could save you a fortune regardless if tenant or buyer. Although not all landlords have their record available on the web, there are quite a few that do and in case yours is one of them, you just might get lucky to never enter that property in the first place.
After you check in
Make sure you carefully read your tenancy agreement. It is crucial for you to fully grasp and understand all clauses in it. Bare in mind, that tenancy agreements can be disputed but it will surely cost you some nerves and effort. Tenants do have the right to suggest edits in case there is an unacceptable clauses, i.e. renters being bound to a two or three months of notice, prior to moving out but many do not mind the cost of property management but rather value their free time and peace of mind.. As a tenant, you have the right to change, remove or add.
Check in inventory reports are mandatory. In order to properly secure your deposit from unfair deductions at the end of lease, it is mandatory for both tenants and landlords to have a copy of a detailed property inventory report, done prior to renters moving in. It is mandatory to list all damage that is already present: wood dings and scratches, drawers failing to fully close, cupboard hinges that have lost their grip, carpet stains, wall marks and etc. The best options is to hire independent inventory clerks, but you could also do it yourself. Invite friends over to help or spare at least a few good hours to complete.
Make sure you have a proper camera. Film and shoot each and every crack, scratch, stain or any other issue you think could end being your responsibility. Only a detail inventory inspection could help you in case of disputes.
Once the report is issued or you have finished it yourself, ask your landlord to read and confirm. Walk-through your property and ask for his/her signature. Take precautions and always keep your records. Mail your landlord a copy of both the inspection report, photos and if necessary – videos. Tell him / her that if there is no sign, nor response within two weeks, you will consider this as consent.
During your lease
Be a conscientious tenant a tidy your home. Regular domestic cleaning is one of the many responsibilities tenants have to tackle. Blot stains before they set, cleanup after your guests, buy a dehumidifier, let fresh air in on a regular basis, vacuum your carpets and take care of dust.
In the unfortunate case of unexpected damage, i.e. inventory falling apart due wear and tear, your landlord has to cover the charge. What to do if the landlord refuses? Take detailed photos of condition prior and after you fix it and make sure to save an invoice for repairs and bill the property owner. If you end up the subject of fraud attempts on behalf your landlord, you will have indisputable proof for being a conscientious tenant.
At the end of tenancy
Always write a formal letter to your landlord stating your plan to move out. Don’t explain why are you moving, you do not need to justify why you’re moving. If you’re moving because of the conditions in the apartment, then you may want to consider adding a few details. Be polite and include your new address in the letter and remind the landlord that you expect him to forward your security deposit to your new address. Be super formal and include the date and your signature. If you send out the only copy, you can’t prove that the landlord received the letter. It’s essential to make a copy of the letter and keep it in a safe place. Keep a copy just in case you end up fighting for your security deposit in court. If you talk to legal experts they’ll say you should send the letter via certified mail as well. But most importantly, make sure your landlord receives it within the notification time frame. Always keep in mind that the notice time starts when your landlord receives the letter so plan your letter accordingly.
Generally there are two types of tenancy agreements. Some have a clause for a non-refundable fee for professional cleaning, others don’t. Depending on which one you have, you will have to either take care of end of tenancy cleaning or simply leave to the pros. If hygiene and property conditions is what you deposit depends on – wipe it top to bottom and A to Z. Use a professional end of tenancy checklist, common speed cleaning hacks or improvise on your own.
Time to repeat the inspection chapter again. Inspect the property, take as detailed photos as possible, invite your landlord for a visit and ask for his/her signature. There is no room of feeling silly, nor inappropriate. It is your lawful right as a tenant.
Regardless of how great your tenant-landlord relation is, a polite landlord does not mean you will surely have your deposit back. Take precautions and never believe unless you have written proof. Your landlord might like you a lot, but when it comes down to business, things might rapidly change.
What to do if your landlord tries to scam you
Is your tenancy deposit the subject of deductions? Demand and detailed list of who, what and why you’re deposit is being deducted. Double check for any shady or absurd claims. Some landlords will try to abuse your trust as a tenant and charge you for carpet cleaning and the for replacing the very same carpet. Obviously this is far from logic, so make sure something like this will never happen.
In case of repairs or replacements, you as a tenant are not bound to cover the full cost, unless of course you broke or damaged something that was either new or in perfect condition. If you take carpets as an example, the average life of any carpet or rug is anywhere between 5 and 8 years. This means that if carpeting was in great condition prior to you moving in but terrible after you moved out, than you will be held liable for the cost. Of course, to contrary does alsy apply. If a carpet is 6 years old when you enter the property and 7 when you leave it, than you are liable for amortization for that period alone.
If you face claims that are far from reasonable – first try being polite. A rough landlord could test if you’re up to the challenge to fight for your rights. Many people simply don’t want to deal with both the hassle and nerves. Face the claims and raise those to court if you have to.
Write down your case and send a copy to somebody. You could even make this up, i.e. your aunt is a legal adviser, your cousin is an attorney and etc. If your landlord sees that you’ve sent the message to a law firm or any other credible person would be more than enough for tenancy scams to fail. Landlords don’t like dealing with lawyers.
Rough landlords might even attack you on a behavior level. If you end up in a situation where you are forced to feel petty with statements like “It’s only 50 or 100 quids”, then politely ask your landlord to take care of such “small” costs.
Always keep records!
Try saving as much as tenant-landlord communication in writing as possible. A verbal consensus has no weight in court.
Mind your attitude and keep your temper under control. Aggression has never lead to anything good.
Make sure that your landlord is fully aware of you being able to protect your rights as a tenant. Tell him/her that if you have to, you will go to court. However, empty threats are no good as well. Many rough landlords will try to push you even though you’ve warned them. “If You Want Peace, Prepare for War”.
Take precautions and perform some small tasks yourself. Changing a few light bulbs, a doormat or even repainting a few stains on the wall might save a ton of nerves and of course – time! You could either do these yourself or hire a pro. It would take a professional handyman anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to complete a small task like minor replacements and repairs.
Follow up with the landlord after the move. Once you finish using a moving company to settle into your new residence, contact your former landlord. If you feel the landlord used too much of your security deposit, then try to reach an agreement with your landlord. The landlord may require you to clean or repair more, but you will get more of your deposit back. Keep in mind agreements like this are legally binding. If all else fails, write the landlord a demand letter for your money back. This is a prerequisite to going to small claims court. You will not get your deposit back if you skip this step. Of course, the letter should include what you want, the facts, documentation, and reference your state’s security deposit law. Lastly, mention you will sue the landlord if your demands are not met.
In case you do not manage to get your deposit back, do not despair. Make sure you leave a negative review along with your story wherever you can online.
Getting your deposit back is always a delicate matter. Knowing your rights as a tenants is merely a part of success. Experience, know-how and research will always make the difference between being a victim to a rough landlord and receiving your full deposit refund.