One of the most commonly asked questions we receive from our tenants is “How can I ensure I’ll receive my security deposit back after I move out?” It’s a good question! Security deposits usually amount to one month’s rent which is money you could use as a deposit on your next apartment or to pay other bills.
Renters may not be aware of the reasons why a landlord may not refund all or part of a security deposit after a tenant moves out. This typically occurs if: a tenant has unpaid rent or utility bills; doesn’t provide sufficient notice that they’re moving out (as spelled out in their lease); or leaves the apartment damaged or not cleaned to an acceptable degree.
Here’s the good news – all these problems can be avoided if you make sure to abide by your lease terms and take the time and effort to leave your apartment in good shape when your property manager does a final walk-through inspection!
Here’s a list of things you can do to make sure your property manager doesn’t need to use your deposit and you get your hard-earned money returned to you after you move out of your apartment:
Double Check Your Lease
We know that in many cases, tenants don’t take a second look at the lease after their signing and move-in date passes. It’s a good idea to pull your lease out of the drawer or folder you may have stashed it in and make sure you know how many days’ notice you need to give your property manager before moving out and what type of cleaning they expect you to do before you leave.
Most property managers stipulate a 30-day or 60-day notice (Prospect Leasing & Management requires a 60-day notice) so they have time to market the property before it becomes available and reduce the length of time it sits vacant.
After you determine your move-out date, communicate your intention to vacate the property in writing with your property manager (and confirm that they received your notice). It’s always in your best interest to confirm that you and your property manager are on the same page rather than assume they’re aware of your plans.
Get Ready To Clean!
The most important part of receiving your security deposit back is leaving your apartment in as good shape (or better!) as it was when you first moved in. In most cases, this is going to take a bit of time and good, old-fashioned elbow grease, so plan to allocate an entire day or two to making sure your space is spotless when you’re about to move out.
Here are some tips to remember when you’re doing your final cleaning:
- Oven: thoroughly clean inside of oven, racks, door, and bottom drawer. If possible, pull stove away from wall to clean behind it. Clean grease off knobs, buttons, under burners and sides of stove. Note – a proper oven cleaning can easily take 2-3 hours, so budget your time appropriately!
- Fridge: pull out drawers and shelves to wipe down inside and outside of fridge, careful not to leave any crumbs or food spills behind. Clean wall behind fridge and the floor below.
- Be sure to wipe down food stains and dust on walls and floor, inside and outside of cabinets, sink and countertop, and mop vinyl or tile floors. Check your kitchen’s exhaust fan for any dirt or grease that may need to be removed.
- Remove soap scum and mildew from bathtub, shower walls and sinks.
- Wipe down counters, mirrors, and inside/outside of cabinets.
- Scrub inside toilet bowl, outside bowl, and under rim. Clean sink and check your bathroom exhaust fan for any dirt that may need to be removed.
- Plan to clean your apartment from top to bottom – dust ceiling fans and blinds, mop floors and clean light fixtures, baseboards, and heaters. Don’t forget to thoroughly clean vents, windows/sills, switch plates, doors and knobs, and cabinets as well!
- Don’t leave any unwanted items behind, including cleaning supplies, clothing or hangers.
- Remove any nails, tape, etc. from the walls and try using a Magic Eraser for getting rid of any scuffmarks.
- Most landlords will require any carpeted areas in your apartment to be professionally cleaned when you move out. Here in Lancaster, we highly recommend the services of Certified Carpet for our residents to leave their carpets looking just as good as when they moved in.
After You Clean
- Remember to replace any burned out light bulbs or dead batteries in smoke detectors.
- Don’t leave large items (beds, furniture, etc.) next to your property’s garbage cans or dumpster. Most trash haulers will not accept these items and disposal costs can be deducted from your security deposit.
- Return all apartment and mailbox keys to your landlord or property manager. Make an effort to stay in contact with your landlord during the move-out process and clarify what steps you need to take in order to receive your deposit.
- Most landlords and property managers will send your security deposit refund 30 days (per PA state law) after you vacate your apartment so be sure to leave your accurate forwarding address with your landlord to minimize any delays.
Doing a thorough cleaning of your apartment may seem like a daunting amount of work but it’s also the best way to recoup as much of your security deposit as possible. Most security deposit deductions can be avoided with proper planning and effort and that means more money in your pocket!
Looking for your next space to call home? Take a look at our apartments in Lancaster, PA.