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The following is a post by MPFJ staff writer, SK. SK writes about the reasons we get into debt, changing the patterns that get us into debt, and examines small business ownership and real estate investing at her blog, American Debt Project.
All of those moving costs, new furniture, and security deposits have added up over the years. But when it comes to security deposits, I have finally figured out how to protect myself as a tenant in order to receive the maximum security deposit when I move out. Here are the lessons I have learned over the years when it comes to getting your landlord to refund your deposit promptly:
Know Your Rights
- How long the landlord has to return your security deposit (In California it is 21 days)
- What can and can’t be taken out from your security deposit (unpaid rent-yes, replacing a carpet with normal wear and tear-no)
- How much can be charged for certain items: In California, landlords can deduct the cost of cleaning or repairs to original condition up to $125 without sending you an itemized invoice. If you knew this, it would be a lot easier to dispute a $175 cleaning fee.
Before you relinquish the keys, take note of every possible item that you might be charged for and if possible, have an approach to not getting charged for it. I was really nervous that my landlord would charge me for the damage to the corner of a cabinet that my dog had chewed. Thankfully, she didn’t charge me anything, but if she had, I would be protected from paying the entire cost of the cabinet, since the cabinet was not new upon move-in. Knowing these things made me more comfortable and ready to handle any charges that might come my way.
Start with the Friendly Approach
However, in the apartment before this one, the process was not as easy. The management company not only didn’t want to return my $300 security deposit, they wanted another $600, most of which was for replacing a carpet and damage to the paint. When I got that notice, I was inflamed. I tended to get more angry back then! I immediately started writing an angry, righteous letter detailing all of the reasons why I didn’t owe them, they owed me. Later that day, I told my friend, who is a politician, about the issue. He spends all day negotiating with people and making people feel good. I figured whatever advice he gave me would probably work. He immediately told me not to send the letter. “Why don’t you go down there and talk with them?” He told me to go in with an easy, friendly approach, and if I showed them I hoped they would help me, they would be more willing to be reasonable than if I had sent an angry letter.
So, I went in and spoke with one of the community managers (it was a huge complex) and it worked! They charged me $100 for cleaning, and I got my $200 security deposit refund back a couple weeks later. Lesson learned: don’t start off on the defensive when someone is holding your money. If you’re reasonable, they can be reasonable too (most of the time).
How about you all? Do you have any great tips on getting your maximum security deposit back?
Share your experiences by commenting below!
***Photo courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1365469