When it comes time to moving out of their rental home, tenants often worry about the security deposit that they have paid to the landlord. As a management company, we want tenants to retain as much of their deposit as possible. Here are some tips to help get the most back from your deposit:
- You should have filled out a check-in sheet when you moved into the property and documented any existing damages. If you didn’t, you may be liable for any items that you didn’t report. Most state laws hold the tenants responsible for reporting damage, whether the landlord provides a check-in sheet or not. Our move-in checklist can be found here: Inspection Checklist.
- Read your lease carefully. It should detail cleaning and move-out requirements, as well as any fees involved with failing to meet those requirements. If it doesn’t, contact your landlord or management company. They should be able to quickly and easily provide you with some guidance. For the convenience of our tenants, you can access ours here: Cleaning Checklist for Tenants.
- Clean EVERYTHING and clean it well. This includes pulling out all of the appliances, cleaning under, in, and behind them. Wash the walls, baseboards, drawers, cupboards, and window sills. These are the most commonly missed areas that we find when doing a checkout.
- Make small repairs but do not patch any nail holes. Have screens repaired professionally at the local hardware store. Be sure all light bulbs and fixtures are in working order.
- Have the carpets professionally cleaned by a truck-mounted service. Contact your landlord or management company if you need recommendations for a service provider. Do not attempt to clean the carpets yourself with a rented machine – water left under the surface can cause significant damage that you could be liable for.
- Don’t forget about the yard! Break out the rake and mower one last time and be sure the lawn and landscaping is in tip-top shape. Pull any weeds and do any patching that may be necessary from pet, pool, or furniture damage.
- Do not leave anything behind, such as furniture or that heavy piano you just couldn’t get out of the basement. Professional removal can be very costly. To give you an example, earlier this year we had a tenant leave a large sectional, piano, metal desk, broken chest freezer, and other miscellaneous items in the basement of their rental home. Our cost was around $500 to remove and dispose of the items, which was charged to the tenants. Pro Tip: Post these items online for free and chances are, you’ll find someone willing to haul them away for you!
- Take your garbage to the curb on your last day, even if your pickup date isn’t for a few more days. Also, do not leave excessive trash or recycling. Many trash removal companies charge for what they deem as “extra” pickup items.
- Take photos on move-out day documenting all of your hard work. You can also request a walk through with the property manager on that date. This may give you an opportunity to correct things that you may have missed. It’s a good time to turn in your keys and garage door remotes as well.
Of course this list is not all-inclusive but it’s a great start to getting the most out of your security deposit.
Every state has different laws and regulations regarding security deposit returns. You can read up on your state’s rules here, although we recommend finding the actual state statutes and not relying on a third party website for legal information.
Here in Wisconsin, landlords have 21 days from the date of notified move-out or the lease ending date to postmark a tenant’s security deposit return itemization. You can read all about Wisconsin Landlord-Tenant law here: https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/704. Trust us – it’s positively riveting.
If you have questions on the security deposit documentation that you receive, we encourage you to contact your landlord or management company to discuss them.