How to Get Your Deposit Back
Maria Allen 07/05/2016
Get Your Deposit Back!
If you've been burned before (or you never want to be burned), read this...
Too often, renters come to accept that they will never get their rental deposit back – that it's money out the window. And, surprisingly, a lot of landlords see security deposits as simply money in their pocket. They charge a security deposit intending never to give it back, and renters pay because, well, that's how it works.
As a renter, there are certain actions you can take to make sure you get your deposit back. (And, if you are a property owner, you'll want to know this too.)
Whether you choose to work with a reliable property management company, or you go at the game alone, keep these 5 Tips in mind on how to get your deposit back:
How to Get Your Deposit Back Tip #1
Make Sure the Money is Set Aside
What IS a security deposit anyway? At Blackwell Realty, our definition of "Security Deposit" boils down to two words: YOUR MONEY. You, the renter.
We are very clear that the rental deposit does not belong to us as property managers. It is not a rental bonus for the property owner. It technically belongs to YOU, as the renter. Handling a security deposit properly includes keeping it in a separate holding account for the entire term of your lease, and stating clearly in the lease agreement what happens with the money.
If you want to get your deposit back, the first thing to do is ask where your security deposit will be held and how to guarantee its safe return. This should be stated clearly in your lease and, if it isn't, request that it is.
How to Get Your Deposit Back Tip #2
Use a Move In/Move Out Checklist
The sad truth is, even if you are a perfectly clean and mindful person, you may not get your deposit back. It happens all the time. If there are no records of the property's condition when you moved in, that broken cabinet and scratched countertop (that were there before you arrived) can end up being your problem.
The best way to get your deposit back in this case is to have a Move In/Move Out Checklist, and photos to go with it. At Blackwell, we use the exact same checklist to capture the shape the house is in when you rent it and when you move out. We walk through the property with you, and together we take note of all of it. We take pictures of anything that is broken or otherwise out of place, so there is no question at the end of your lease when it comes time to get your deposit back.
Any reliable property management company should have a procedure like this, yet if they don't (or you're working with an independent landlord), take the initiative yourself. This is a great strategy for renters and landlords alike.
How to Get Your Deposit Back Tip #3
Keep the Property in Good Condition
This may go without saying, but if you want to get your deposit back, keep the house in good shape while you live there! Sure, "clean and tidy" is a relative term, so a good way to think of it is to keep everything in move-in ready condition.
Did you know that vacuuming regularly keeps the carpet in better shape in the long-term? So vacuum, clean up messes when they happen and, if you are responsible for the grounds too, stay on top of the lawn and landscaping.
When it comes time to move out, refer to your trusty Move In/Move Out Checklist so you can get your deposit back in full.
How to Get Your Deposit Back Tip #4
Stay on Top of Repairs
One of the perks of being a renter is that regular repairs and maintenance are usually the responsibility of the property owner. If an appliance breaks, all you need to do is make a simple phone call. But, please, make that phone call!
Contact your landlord or reliable property management company as soon as something is broken, so they can get it repaired right away. At Blackwell Realty, we keep a record of all those calls. If you are renting from an independent property owner, keep a log of the repairs you request so, even if they are not handled, you have a record that you took corrective action. This can help you get your deposit back.
How to Get Your Deposit Back Tip #5
Give Your Forwarding Address
Even the best landlord and most reliable property management company won't be able to hunt you down like only the IRS can. So, leave a forwarding address! You can't expect to get your deposit back if you don't say where to send it.
At Blackwell, we offer reliable property management in Jefferson County and Berkeley County, including Charles Town, Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, Martinsburg, and Inwood. Contact us today, and we'll help you find your perfect rental (with proper measures in place so you can get your deposit back)!