How to Get Your Damage Deposit Back From Your Landlord

deposit Damage deposit and security deposit can mean the same thing in some states. Getting your security deposit or damage deposit back from your landlord isn’t as easy as it should be or as it sounds. Since all states have their own laws concerning the security deposit, this article gives you a general idea of what you need to do before signing a rental agreement and when you move out.

It happens just too many times. When you first find a rental house you really like and you move in, the landlord is as nice as can be. But when it comes time to move out and get your security deposit back, things are completely different.

Before Moving In

When you first move into a new place, make sure you and the landlord walk through the entire place and write down what you consider to be questionable or damaged. For example, a small rip in the carpeting, write that down. If the new landlord says they are going to have that fixed in a week, fine, when it is fixed then it can be crossed off that list.

Places to check:

You need to look at everything and it is easy to overlook something.

  • Is the fireplace clean
  • Look on top of and inside the stove and oven.
  • Have the walls been freshly painted, are there holes, scratches or dents in any walls.
  • Are there any holes or tears in the carpeting
  • Are there scratches or nicks in the hardwood floors
  • Do the ceiling fans work
  • Are there holes in any screens
  • Are all of the windows and window cranks working
  • Is the refrigerator clean and working

Write everything down and then you and the landlord sign and date this paper right then and there. Do not wait or put this off, because once you moved in, it is harder to have a walk through.

This can be harder than it sounds since the landlord is friendly and you might feel you don’t want to make waves. But believe me, when it comes time to move out and get your deposit back, that landlord and the situation might not be as friendly.

Understand your lease and get everything in writing. If you should have to go to court to get your security deposit back, courts don’t like verbal agreements so get everything in writing and understand it.

Smoking and Pets

If the landlord agrees that pets are fine, get it in writing and have the landlord sign and date it. If pets are okay, do the same thing. Also add in any extra pet deposits on the lease.

In some states, there are laws that state you will get your pet deposit back, because after all, it is a deposit. But in many other states, there are no such laws and you will never get a pet deposit back, even if there is no damage.

Read the Lease

What does the lease say about painting and about carpet cleaning? Many leases will say that the tenant is responsible or partially responsible to have the carpets cleaned.

 Painting, many leases have something in them that says if a tenant lives there more than 2 years or something similar that the tenant is not responsible for painting.

Many leases say leave it as you found it. Nice, but not possible, so the term normal wear and tear is very important. Learn what normal wear and tear means.

Moving Out

Too many times, the terms security and damage deposit are interchangeable. If you leave a rental home and owe back rent, in some states, the damage deposit can be used for that even if there was no damage. Again, each state has different laws.

When you move out, clean the house, that includes the bathrooms, vacuuming and the kitchen is important to clean.

Once you have moved out, you need to do a final walkthrough with the landlord. Noting everything he thinks is wrong or damage and getting that in writing and signed

When you move out, give the former landlord your forwarding address.

Getting Your Security and or Damage Deposit Back

Most states have statutes about getting your security deposit back in a specified amount of time. Usually the landlord has 30 days (or 60 days if stated in the lease) to give you back your deposit or an accounting of what portion of the deposit they used for damages.
If after that time period, you didn’t receive anything, the landlord forfeits his right to any of the deposit. That usually means that the burden of proof is now on the landlord and not the tenant. This is why it is so important to give your former landlord a forwarding address.

Normal Wear and Tear

There is something called normal wear and tear and some landlords ignore this, they sometimes will charge a former tenant for painting and brand new carpeting for reasons that are simply normal wear and tear.

For example living in a place for 5 years and the carpeting is worn in spots is normal wear and tear.

If the landlord has to replace the carpet or paint because of your fault, what the landlord can charge you for that, is prorated for the age of the old carpet or paint. That has to do with the useful average life of carpet or paint.

If the landlord doesn’t send you anything within the specified time frame, you then need to send the landlord a letter stating this and that you intend to sue. In many states you can sue for double or triple damages for a wrongfully withheld security deposit, but you have to let the landlord know a certain number of days before you sue, hopefully to rectify the situation first.

If the landlord sent you a letter in the specified amount of time accounting for what the deposit was used for and you don’t agree, then you do the same as above, explaining why you don’t agree and you have the right to sue.

Copyright © 2008-2014 Sam Montana

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