When it’s time to move on from your apartment, 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 deposit.

Want that money back? Of course, you do.

How to reclaim your security deposit:

1. Give Ample Notice

Check your lease to know what’s required; on a month-to-month lease, it is typically 30 days, but make sure you give written notice at the correct time.

2. Check the Balance

“Ensure that all rents and fees have been paid in full,” says Amy Groff, vice president of operations at apartment manager and developer Kittler Management. It’s not unusual for tenants to think they’ve paid their maintenance fees and realize they haven’t, for example.

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, says Debra Johnson, a cleaning expert from Merry Maids. 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.

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4. Clean, Clean, Clean.

The importance of this cannot be overestimated. Johnson recommends tackling your cleaning procedures from the top of the room and working your way down:

    • 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.
    • 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,” she adds.
    • Finally, 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.
    • Don’t overlook details: In the bathrooms and kitchen, the inside of the cabinets and drawers should be washed. And the shower 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,” says Johnson.

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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, notes Groff. 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,” she says.

6. Schedule a Pre-move Out Inspection

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

Empty living room with white walls

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.

8. Turn in Your Keys

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

9. Let Everyone Know You’re Moving

Provide an accurate forwarding address for the timely return of your deposit, says Groff, adding that you should also complete a change of address form with the post office. Settle up your utility bill and notify them the date you’ll be moving.

10. All Roomies Get Their Share

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

Cathie Ericson