Countless times I have heard “you’re just going to keep my deposit anyway” during move out inspections. Unfortunately, this belief is a deterrent for renters to clean to the best of their ability upon move-out. I cannot speak for all landlords or property managers, but Thousand Hills Realty likes to give back as much of your deposit as possible!
The information herein is provided as an effort to be helpful, is not legal advice, and does not guarantee the return of your security deposit. First and foremost, it is advisable for renters to read their lease agreement for guidance as well as speaking with their landlord and/or management company.
- The most important thing I can tell you is to fulfill your lease obligation. If you sneak under the dark of night, regardless of the sparkly clean condition in which you leave your rental home, chances are likely you are not going to get your deposit back.
- Make it a point to be present for your scheduled move-out inspection. This gives you an opportunity to correct what you may have overlooked.
- Keep the utilities on until the move-out inspection, at which time the landlord can assess the cleaning (it is difficult to inspect in the dark), and give an estimate as to when you can have them shut off. No one wants to pay the electric bill for an extra week, but in the long run it will save you money. If the landlord has to have the utilities turned on for the purpose of cleaning, the expense, including deposit, will probably be deducted from your security deposit.
- All light bulbs should be in working order, appropriate for the fixture, and they should match. What does that mean? The four bulb chandelier above the dining room table needs to have four matching bulbs appropriate for the fixture. As does the bathroom vanity light bar, the front porch light, etc.
- Clean! Clean as if your life depends upon it. Sanitize sinks and bathtubs, this is especially important if you have a jetted tub. Wash light fixtures, dust light bulbs, clean the lint trap, pull the fridge and stove out to clean behind and under them. Wipe the top of the fridge, all cabinets and drawers. If you put liners in the cabinets and drawers make sure you remove them. Although you never used the downstairs bathroom for the entirety of your six year lease – clean it. Don’t forget about the ceiling fans and baseboards.
- Do not leave *stuff* behind. You may think you are making a righteous contribution to the property by leaving behind your old box television, a cupboard fully stocked with canned green beans for the next tenant, or the eclectic collection of dishes in the kitchen cabinets. Trust me, you are not. It costs money to have these items removed. Money you want back – money we want to give back.
- Walls should be touched up with matching paint. If you cannot find a paint match, as it can be difficult, consult with your landlord. Sometimes you do more harm than good when you attempt to touch up the paint with a color that is close. Fill nail holes, fist holes, and any other holes or damages you may have created or caused.
- If blinds for the windows were there when you moved in, they should be there when you move out. If you have broken them, knocked them down while hunting dust bunnies, or let the cat swing from them like a trained trapeze artist, replace them. Sure, blinds are not necessarily expensive and you may not mind the cost coming out of your deposit. However, think of the installation expense. Blinds do not install themselves. The same goes for the light bulbs we talked about earlier, chirping smoke detector batteries…you get the picture.
- Carpet cleaning is also necessary. Again, I can’t speak for all landlords. What I can do is tell you what our lease requires in regards to carpet care. Once you move out, they must be professionally cleaned. Renting a rug doctor or borrowing your neighbors carpet shampooer is not a professional cleaning. Before you break your back trying to clean the carpet yourself, ask your landlord what their expectation is. If you have a professional carpet cleaner take care of it, make sure they guarantee their work and get a receipt. Although the carpet is ten years old, it is not relevant that, in your opinion, it needs to be replaced.
Personally speaking, I deeply appreciate doing move out inspections for tenants who have taken pride in their rental home, and left it in clean, move-in ready condition. They are happy to get their deposit back and I am happy to give it to them. It makes my job much easier.