The security deposit is a normal part of any lease when renting a place to stay. It is usually the amount of 1 to 3 months lease, depending on the place, and your landlord holds onto it as compensation while you live there in case you damage part of the rental property or do not pay rent for a month or so. Once you have signed a lease and paid your security deposit, you will want to do everything you can while living there to ensure you will be able to gain that original deposit back at the end. It is not usually easy to get your security deposit back, unless you know the right things to do.
Your landlord has the right to use the security deposit to cover certain expenses related to you, and otherwise, you are obliged to have it returned to you at the end of your lease. Sadly, not all landlords know the law and even if they do, they do not comply with it. Knowing your rights and how to protect yourself in such a situation is the best thing to do.
If you have already paid your security deposit for your new rental but have changed your mind for any reason, you should plan on getting your security deposit back. The first thing to do is to read your contract and contact your landlord right away. The lease should mention the amount of the security deposit, the rent amount, and when it is due. The lease agreement should also mention the conditions for getting the security deposit back. No matter, whether you have already moved in to the property or you have changed your mind to do so, once you have signed the lease this contract becomes binding for both you and your landlord. In both cases you should send a written notice to your landlord for ending the lease. In a way this is breaching the contract because it was signed for a certain period of time.
Usually the deadline for sending the notice to end the lease early in most states is 30 days. If you don’t send one, you still owe rent and your landlord could use your security deposit for it. Send the notice by certified mail, request a return receipt and keep a copy of it for yourself. Keep the receipt and the copy of the notice together. If something goes wrong and you go to small claims court, you will have this proof you have complied with the contract.
If you manage to find someone to rent the unit instead of you earlier, which is known as sublease, you will not have to pay as much rent. That is if someone rents the place from a date sooner than the last one of your 30-day notices. You will owe rent until that person moves in, and the new tenant continues to pay the rent on that lease. Technically you owe rent for the time until the lease expires; if you do not pay the rent, it could be deducted from your security deposit or until someone rents the unit instead of you. If you are the only tenant and you’re moving out, the situation is simpler. If you are renting the unit with other people as well and you are the only person leaving, talk to the others or to the landlord about getting your security deposit back. The landlord is not obliged to give it to you if not all cotenants are moving out. That would take some negotiation between you and the landlord.
Your landlord should have your new address because if you cannot be located, in some states the law says your landlord can keep the deposit. Each state has different rules and regulations as to when and how your landlord should give you the security deposit back. Check what they are for your state so you know how to protect your rights.
After you move out, the landlord will go to inspect the unit and in some states you have the right to be there and be present. This is good because if there are some final fixtures to be done or some cleaning, you can handle it so that you could end your lease peacefully and get your security deposit back. If you haven’t taken proper care of the unit when leaving, as mentioned in your contract, the landlord has the right to cover damages and arrange for extra cleaning to be done on your behalf, that is by paying for it with your security deposit. Your security deposit can also be used for paying utility bills. You are not responsible for normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear is appliances that wore out, colors of the walls that have faded, carpet that is worn away, etc. You are responsible for doing a final cleaning as well, which you will want to make sure that you are aware of what your landlord expects you to do so you don’t under or over do it. If you, your pets or guests have caused any damages, again, it is your duty to fix them.
It is important to be aware of your contract when you are first signing your lease. Next, you will want to be aware of your living situation: do you have any roommates? What kind of shape are the appliances, walls, and carpet in? Taking care of your home is an important part to reassuring yourself of being able to obtain your security deposit upon move out. Lastly, make sure to leave your rental cleaner, and in better shape than when you arrived so that you will ensure yourself and your landlord of being able to reclaim your security deposit.