12 Ways How to Get Your Security Deposit Back From Your Landlord

If you're like most tenants who are planning a move, you're worried about your security deposit. Will you get it back? How much will your landlord deduct? Do you have any control over the situation?

If you're like most tenants who are planning a move, you're worried about your security deposit. Will you get it back? How much will your landlord deduct? Do you have any control over the situation?

Your landlord can't make arbitrary deductions from your security deposit, but then again, if you're not compliant with the terms of your lease, and you don't leave the unit in good condition, you may not be entitled to your deposit at all. So... what do you need to do to ensure your rental passes inspection, and you get back what you deserve? 

Review Your Lease

Review Your Lease

Make sure you know how much notice you need to give your landlord, and whether or not you're breaking your lease. Most arrangements require advance payment for your last month's rent in addition to your cleaning deposit, and if you'll be owed a partial month's rent due to a mid-month move-out, you don't want to fight for the pro-rated refund... even if it's illegal for the landlord to withhold it. 

Give your notice in writing

Give your notice in writing

When you've determined your moving date, send a formal letter to your landlord to let them know which date you will vacate the property. If you're unsure how to word, format, and deliver your official notice, we have a comprehensive guide to giving notice to your landlord  on our blog. 

Understand your rights

Understand your rights

A thorough understanding of the terms of your rental contract before you begin the move out process will better your chances of receiving a full refund. Knowledge gives you confidence if you need to dispute a deduction or decline to perform repairs and cleaning that aren't your responsibility.  VerticalRent is the foremost resource for tenants and we can help you find tenant laws relevant to your local and state laws, and help you answer common tenant questions: 

  • How is "normal wear and tear" defined?
  • Am I required to paint or recarpet when I move out? 
  • What's the landlord's definition of "broom clean "?
  • Do I need to leave light bulbs in the unit's fixtures when I take my expensive "smart" bulbs with me?

What other questions do you have? Write them down, research as much as you can, and if you still don't know, find out what your landlord expects of you.

Consult With Your Landlord

Once you're aware of your rights and your obligations, now's the time to find out how you can cooperate with your landlord to make sure you've done your due diligence, and that they've taken some responsibility for your move-out strategy. If there are any vague clauses in your rental contract that you can't clarify by researching local and state laws, send an e-mail to your landlord with your questions. 

Share the burden of responsibility

While it's best to ask these questions the day you sign your lease, you should find out from your landlord if they require you to use a professional carpet cleaning service, rather than a rental machine. If they do, ask them to provide the names of three approved companies from which you can choose. Not only does this show that you're going out of your way to accommodate their preferences, but you're also reducing your liability if the cleaners don't do a good job or cause any damage.

Ask for a copy of their checklist

Most landlords have a template inspection form which they use to check off items as they conduct their walk-throughs. Many, though, are converting to special apps for their mobile devices. Either way, request a hard copy of the line items and inquire how they assign values to each. This will help you prioritize your cleaning and repairs, and see your progress from your landlord's perspective. 

Schedule not one, but two walk-throughs

Finally, you'll want to make arrangements for a walk-through so your landlord can sign off on any damage while you're present. Most walk-throughs are completed within 24 hours of your move-out, but it never hurts to request two. If they're available for a preliminary walk-through a week or two before your scheduled move-out, you'll have the opportunity to make any minor repairs you've missed, and make any negotiations for repairs or cleaning beyond your ability. 

If your landlord resists taking time out of their schedule for the extra pre-move inspection, point out that you want to make sure they won't have to keep the apartment vacant and off the market while they tend to any last-minute cleaning or repairs after you leave. Hopefully, they'll realize how considerate you are of their bottom line.

Create a Move Out Plan

Create a Move Out Plan

You've set your move-out date, given your official notice, and scheduled walk-throughs with your landlord. Now it's time to structure the next 30 (or, perhaps in your case, 60) days. You've got a lot to do, and without a checklist and a calendar, it's easy to get behind schedule. 

Book your moving transport

Are you hiring professional movers? Renting a truck, or one of those portable storage containers? One more thing to ask your landlord is if there are any restrictions or recommendations for safely parking a truck, or placing your "Pod". Then, make sure the moving company or delivery driver is insured to cover any damages to the interior or exterior property, including vehicles and property belonging to your neighbors. 

Make appointments with a cleaning service and carpet cleaner

Professional housecleaners are worth the expense, especially given the large deposits landlords demand. They'll do a better cleaning job—in less time—than you could, and reduce your stress and workload. Make sure they do a good job with fixtures, appliances, cabinets, tile grout, and baseboards, and be willing to help move the refrigerator away from the wall to clean accumulated debris and dust.

If you're responsible for maintaining the exterior grounds, you might budget for the assistance of a landscaper to tidy things up a bit. 

Choose and schedule your carpet cleaner, and consider paying extra for them to shampoo your furniture. There's nothing like a clean start when you move into your new place. 

Bring in your housecleaners first—ideally, two days before you're required to vacate—and have your carpet cleaners come in the next day. If it's at all possible, coordinate your move-out date a few days after you get the keys to your new home, so you can be fully moved when you bring in reinforcements. That way, the carpets will be dry and your rental sparkling when your landlord arrives for their final walk-through. 

Set deadlines

If you break down your moving tasks, you won't be overwhelmed. As soon as you give notice, begin decluttering your home. Pack up or donate any clothing you don't expect to wear for the next month or so, and any knickknacks and belongings you can live without until you're settled into your new place. Use a wall calendar to write down "do by" dates, with the goal of leaving the bare minimum unpacked—furniture, must-have clothing, computers, and kitchenware—until the day of your move. 

You'll find that it's much easier to clean when you don't have as much stuff in the way, and if you're not hiring professional cleaners, you can break up the tougher, deep-cleaning tasks over a period of weeks so all you have to do is give the unit a final wipe-down before you leave. 

Once your apartment is move-out ready, take photos of each and every room so you have a record of your unit's condition.

Be Ready for The Final Inspection

Be Ready for The Final Inspection

No matter how much help you've had preparing for your move, you're going to be exhausted. Hopefully, you're also excited about your new home. Just remember to stay focused on your old rental for one more day as you join your landlord for your final walk-through. 

By "join", we don't recommend breathing down their neck. Let them take their time as you hang back outside the unit. When they're finished, ask them if they found any problems. If the answer is "yes", insist they point them out and then negotiate how the situation can be remedied at the least cost to you. If the work requires a professional, insist on an itemized statement outlining any deductions from your deposit. If you feel you're being treated unfairly, don't engage in a hostile confrontation. You're already armed with information, and you understand your rights as outlined by the terms of your contract and your legal rights according to state and municipal laws. If necessary, you can pursue legal means of recovering your rental deposit later, but for now, just take notes and be sure to thoroughly photograph the alleged damage.

Finally, ask when you can expect your money and any incurred interest, and make sure the landlord has your forwarding address. It's possible you'll get a check that same day; after all, if you've stuck with your plan, you've completed all the tasks required of you. And if there's a delay in or problem with getting your full deposit back—typically within two weeks—you can send a demand letter as the first step toward pursuing the matter in small claims court. 

Knowledge = Power

Knowledge = Power

When you're well-informed of tenant-landlord laws, and you keep up your end of the rental contract, you should have no problem getting your deposit back. And when you move into your new home, you'll be mindful of what you need to do to make your next move-out easier and to treat your security deposit as an investment.


VerticalRent® is not a law firm, and the employees of VerticalRent® are not acting as your attorney. Our educational blog or landlord forms engine is not a substitute for the sound advice of a local attorney, whom is familiar with your local laws and regulations. VerticalRent® cannot provide you with legal advice, nor are we permitted to engage in the practice of law.

We are prohibited from providing you with any sort of advice, opinion, explanation, or recommendation about your possible legal rights – which may include remedies, options, defenses, or the selection of landlord forms available on the VerticalRent platform. Our platform is designed to provide landlords and property managers with powerful online tools to screen applicants, collect rent online, advertise vacancies, and generate free landlord forms. To that extent, our blog often publishes general information on issues commonly encountered by landlords – such as evicting tenants.

Although VerticalRent takes every reasonable effort possible to ensure the accuracy of its consumer reports and landlord forms, we do not guarantee or warrant the information to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. The law changes rapidly across the United States, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. We will not be held responsible for any loss, injury, claim, damage, or liability related to the use of our blog, landlord forms or consumer reports generated from this platform.

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