11 Tips to Guarantee You Get Your Security Deposit Back

© arinahabich / dollarphotoclub.com
© arinahabich / dollarphotoclub.com

When you rent with bad credit, you sometimes have to pay a full month’s rent as a security deposit. You probably want this back when you move out, especially if you want to apply it towards security deposit or rent on another apartment.

1. Read your lease.

Your lease will let you know what condition you need to leave your apartment to increase the odds of getting your full security deposit back.

2. Report any damages to your landlord right away.

While you’re still living in the apartment, your lease probably requires you to let your landlord know about damages or appliance malfunctions.

3. Treat the apartment like a home you own.

The better care you take care of your rental, the more likely it is that you’ll get your deposit back.

4. Give notice before moving out.

Your lease will spell out how far in advance you have to let your landlord know you’re moving out. It may be 30, 60, or 90 days before the end of the lease. Failing to give proper notice could cause you to lose your deposit. Breaking your lease can also forfeit your deposit – or the landlord could apply the deposit to your lease-breaking fee. Your lease will define the process for leaving your apartment, either at the end of your lease or in the middle of the term.

5. Fix your damages.

If you broke something while you were living in the apartment, fix it before you turn in your keys. Unrepaired damages will almost always be taken out of your security deposit. For serious damages, you may even receive a bill in the mail if your deposit wasn’t enough to cover the repairs. Replace the blades of broken blinds or wall outlet coverings.

6. Repaint the walls.

Many landlords allow you to change the color the walls as long as you return them to their original color before you move out. Ask your landlord for the paint color if you need to. Be careful not to get paint on the carpets – removing the paint can be a pain and leaving it there can reduce the amount of the security deposit you get back.

7. Clean the apartment.

Vacuum the floors. Clean the kitchen. Remove nails from the wall and fill them with putty if they holes are noticeable. Leave your apartment at least as clean as you found it.

8. Refer back to your move-in checklist.

Remember when you first moved in, you walked through the rental with your landlord noting the condition of the apartment. You’re typically required to leave the apartment in the same condition when you moved in. If there was something broken when you moved in, you don’t have to fix it when you move out.

9. Don’t leave anything behind.

Your landlord could charge a fee if they have to dispose of any of your belongings. Do a final walkthrough of every room, closet, storage rooms, and the balcony/patio to make sure you haven’t left anything behind.

10. Take pictures before you turn in the keys.

This gives you proof of the condition of the apartment when you move out.

11. Give your landlord your new address.

Your landlord can’t send your deposit to you if they can’t find you. Make sure you leave your forwarding address to make it easier for the landlord to send your deposit to you.

In the majority of states, your landlord has to give you an explanation if they’re keeping any part of your deposit. Ask for an itemized list and compare it to the photos you took after you cleaned. Challenge the landlord’s explanation if your pictures tell a different story.

Watch Out for These Apartment Rental Scams

© kyo / dollarphotoclub.com
© kyo / dollarphotoclub.com

Finding the right apartment is hard work, even harder when you’re renting with bad credit or trying to find a no credit check apartments. Scammers know this and use it as an opportunity to trick unsuspecting renters into giving up sensitive information.

Fake Ads, Credit Report or Credit Score Scams

Some scammers place fake rental ads in an attempt to get you to order a credit report or credit score through their link. The link may take you to an affiliate website that earns the scammer money when you order a free credit report. While you do get access to your credit report, there’s no real rental and your search is still on.

Another version of the credit report scam takes you to a website where you’re supposed to be able to order your credit report, but the scammer uses it to capture your personal information.

When you order your credit report, you have to enter your name, address, date of birth, and social security number. All this is information a scammer can use to steal your identity. Many landlords do use their own tenant screening services, but this is software that only the landlord can use. Plus, if the landlord only wants to use see your credit report, there shouldn’t be a problem with one you pull from AnnualCreditReport.com.

Send Money to Hold the Rental

Another rental scam asks you to send money for an upfront deposit, application fee, or first month’s rent. The scammer creates some type of urgency for you to send the money, e.g. the rental is in high demand and only people who pay a security deposit will be considered. Watch out especially for ads that ask you to send money via wire transfer. A real landlord will allow you to pay any deposits or fees on move in day via check, cash, or money order and only after you’ve actually seen the rental.

Landlord Email Hacks

If a landlord has posted their email address in the rental ad, it increases the landlord’s risk of being hacked. Scammers may change the landlord’s password, intercept rental inquiries, and respond as though they’re renting the apartment. Remember not to send personal information over email, don’t wire money, and don’t fall for the credit report scam.

The Landlord is In Another Country

It’s possible that landlords live in other states, but not as likely that they live in another country. Watch out for rental ads pushing you to complete an application or send money because the landlord is located out of the country. In one scam, the scammer creates a fake email address matching the real owner for real properties for rent or sale.

Do your due diligence. If you find a rental that you’re interested in, do an internet search for the address to see any real estate matches that come up. You may be able to find the owner’s name and rental rates. If what you see in the rental ad doesn’t match the internet search results, proceed with caution or keep looking.

9 Things to Verify Before Signing Your Lease

© designer491 / dollarphotoclub.com
© designer491 / dollarphotoclub.com

Your apartment lease is a legally binding agreement. Once you sign, your landlord can hold you to all the terms inside the lease.

Don’t agree to unfair lease terms, even if you had a hard time finding an apartment because of bad credit. Before you put your signature on the dotted line, make sure you understand and agree to everything inside the lease.

Who’s on the lease?

The people listed on the lease are expected to make payments. If there are late payments, everyone who’s listed on the lease will be held liable. If you have a roommate who’s not on the lease, the landlord will only hold you responsible for the late payment and the fees.

How much is the rent? When is it due? When is it late?

Perhaps the most important thing you want to see on your lease is the amount you’re expected to pay each month the date it’s due. If your landlord has agreed to a discount on the rent, make sure it’s listed on the lease. Otherwise, you’re legally obligated to pay the amount listed on the lease.

What’s the late fee?

Some landlords give a small grace period of a few days to allow you to pay your rent. Make sure you know the “late date” as paying after this date can result in a hefty late fee. The late fee may be a set amount or a percent of your rent. The amount of the late fee may increase after 10 or 15 days late. Your landlord may start the eviction process if you’re more than 30 days late on your lease.

What’s the term on the lease?

Make sure the length of the lease is the same as any oral agreement you made with the landlord. If there’s any dispute, what’s in writing is what counts. Note the date that your lease expires, you may have to renew or state your intent to move out before the end of your lease.

What happens after the lease ends?

Some landlords offer a month-to-month option after the initial lease is completed. Your lease may automatically renew.

Can you make any changes?

Many renters like to customize their rentals by painting walls or hanging pictures. Check your lease allows you to make these kinds of changes and whether you have to fix them before you move out. In some cases, for example, you can paint the walls a different color, but must return the walls to their original color before moving out.

How far in advance do you have to send a move-out notice?

Your landlord would like to have enough time to advertise your rental and hopefully have another renter prepared to move in shortly after you move. To do this, your landlord needs enough advance notice to begin advertising the rental. So, you may be required to send an intent to move out anywhere from 30 to 90 days before the end of your lease.

What’s the penalty for breaking the lease?

You can’t just move out early. Your lease probably stipulates that if you break your lease, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee, often two or three months of rent.

What’s the pet policy?

If your landlord allows pets, there may be an additional pet deposit and monthly pet rent. Your landlord may have size or breed restrictions, so make sure your pet is allowed before signing the lease. Otherwise, if you move in with a pet that’s not allowed, your landlord may require you to get rid of it or may even be allowed to cancel your lease.

Ask all your questions before signing the lease. Once you sign, you’re bound by the terms of the lease and getting out of it can be expensive.