When it’s time to move on from your apartment to a new home, it’s tempting to just throw your stuff in some boxes and go. But, not so fast. Remember when you initially signed your lease and paid your first and last month’s rent? That’s right….you also paid a hefty security deposit.

Want that money back? Of course, you do.

When you move out of an apartment you need to leave it in the same condition that it was in when you first moved in. That means if those scratches in the cabinets or holes in the wall weren’t there before, then your landlord would be able to deduct the cost of repairs from your deposit before handing it over.

While most landlords won’t deduct for normal wear and tear, some will try and scrutinize every last inch of the apartment looking for flaws. If you are looking to move out of your old place with your full security deposit, take the time to move out properly by following these steps:

Apartment Move Out Checklist

Remember, this apartment move out checklist is not a substitute for the procedures outline in your lease. Be sure to read it carefully for any specific provisions about moving out and the return of the security deposit. Keep reading to learn how to move out of an apartment the right way.

1. Give Required Notice

Check your lease to know what’s required. On a month-to-month lease term, it is typically 30 days, but make sure you give written notice at the correct time. Some leases require tenants to give 60 days notice. Fail to give notice in time, and you could be on the hook paying rent for an additional month after leaving the apartment.

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2. Check the Balance

Ensure that all rents and fees have been paid in full. It’s not unusual for tenants to think they’ve paid their maintenance fees and realize they haven’t, for example. Any unpaid fees or fines could come out of your security deposit.

3. Leave No Trace

You don’t want to leave anything behind, whether it’s trash or a really sweet couch that you think the next tenant might like. Even if you thinking you’re being helpful and leaving cleaning supplies or other “necessities,” the landlord may not see it that way and charge you a cleaning fee. Remember when moving out of an apartment to always leave it exactly how you found it.

4. Clean, Clean, Clean.

The importance of this cannot be overestimated. Tackle your cleaning procedures from the top of the room and working your way down. The best time to clean your old apartment is once you’ve removed all of your boxes and furniture. This way you can easily see what’s dirty and what needs to be repaired.

  • Begin by removing any cobwebs from the ceiling, track lighting or ceiling fans.
  • Next move to the windows – vacuum window treatments, or wash and launder them, before hanging them back up. Use a microfiber cloth to dust and follow up by washing the blinds or shutters with warm water and wood cleaner, floor cleaner or dish-washing liquid. These all have a neutral pH and are safe to use on these surfaces, she notes.
  • Wipe down light switches from stains and fingerprints. Switches get a lot of use and get really dirty over time.
  • Wash any other wood items in the room and evaluate the condition of the baseboards, doors and window trim to determine if washing is sufficient, or if it’s time to do some repainting.
  • Check the walls for scrapes or scratches and repair the spots, as necessary. Patch up any holes from wall mounts with spackling paste. Depending on the condition, it might be time for a fresh coat of paint on the walls if your lease permits it. Just make sure you use the exact same paint used by the complex. Ask the apartment manager for the name, or if you could use a small amount from their supplies.
  • Finish the room by cleaning the floors. If it’s a carpeted surface, you may only need to vacuum; however, after moving, you might consider hiring a carpet cleaner. If it’s a hard surface, be sure to wash or steam the floors.
  • In the bathrooms and kitchen, the inside of the cabinets and drawers should be washed. Scrub sinks until they sparkle.
  • Empty the fridge completely and give the interior a wipe down with warm soapy water. Pull out drawers and wash them thoroughly.
  • Clean the oven, range and microwave thoroughly. Pull the oven out and clean behind it. Wipe down countertops. Leave no crumb behind!
  • The shower and tub might need some extra TLC. One cleaning will not typically suffice – the shower may be a daily project until the surface is completely restored and may take several days to tackle.

The list of cleaning duties may be overwhelming, especially if you are moving at the last minute. If you don’t have the time or energy, consider hiring a cleaning service. This is what your property manager will end up doing, but they will certainly charge you more for it. Keep more of your security deposit by hiring a cleaning service yourself.

5. Fix What You Broke

When a toilet breaks, that’s on them. But if your pet has been chewing on the blinds, that’s on you. Refer to your lease to find out what you would be responsible for, above normal wear and tear.

If there are items that you know need to be fixed, it’s best to report them to the management office and have them repair and bill you versus having them discover them as you move out.

6. Schedule a Pre-move Out Inspection

Do a walk through with the property manager so there are no surprises when you receive your final statement. If there are issues that you believe you can fix prior to move out, have the manager back to approve them once complete.

7. Take Pictures

Once your packing and cleaning is complete, document your progress to avoid a “he said, she said” situation. Make sure you photograph inside closets and drawers to show they are empty. If there are stains that you feel are normal wear and tear, talk to the management about them and make sure you’re on the same page.

When you first moved in to your apartment you should have also documented any existing damage with photos or notes. You might remind the landlord of any major issues that pre-existed before you moved in so they don’t try to charge you for it!

8. Turn in Your Keys

Make sure you visit the management office on your scheduled move-out date. To be safe get a receipt for turning in the keys.

9. Let Everyone Know You’re Moving

Provide your new address for the timely return of your deposit. You should also complete a change of address form with the local post office. Settle up your utility bill and notify them the date you’ll be vacating the apartment. Transfer your renters insurances to your new apartment address to ensure continuous coverage.

10. All Roomies Get Their Share

Understand that if there are multiple leaseholders, the deposit refund must be issued to all leaseholders.

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Cathie Ericson