In most cases, getting your security deposit back after a move out isn’t a lost cause. Lots of renters don’t know this, and, surprisingly, more than a few landlords don’t either. But with a little know-how and elbow grease, you can usually get all or most of your money back. Here’s a helpful move-out checklist to get your deposit back.
Intent to Vacate—Know How
First thing’s first. If you’re moving out, you’ll need to give your landlord a heads up. The amount of time varies from state to state, though intent to vacate notices are typically sent between 30 and 60 days prior to desired move-out date.
If you’re a Georgia resident, for example, you’ll need to give your landlord at least 30 days’ notice—click here to see more on Georgia rental laws. Check your leasing agreement for any special instructions regarding your intent to vacate. And once you’ve got your notice together, consider sending it via certified mail. That way, you’ll have a record it was received.
In Georgia, landlords with more than 10 rental units must perform a move-out inspection within three business days of the lease termination date. If they don’t, they can’t keep your deposit. When they set up a time, try to be there, as they’ll go through and make a list of any damages and expected costs to repair them. Your landlord has to sign this list and present it to you for your review. And you’ll have to sign off on it, as well, but you’ll also get the chance to specify in writing any claims you want to dispute. Be sure to get pictures, too, as this will help document the state your rental was in when you left.
If you can’t be there the day your landlord does the inspection, you’ll have up to five business days after the lease termination to go through the rental with the inspection list. If you don’t dispute in writing any of the landlord’s claims—if there are any—you won’t be able to contest any of the charges taken out of your deposit. If you’re entitled to all or some of your security deposit, the landlord has to send it to you within the first month of the lease termination date. Be sure to provide them with your new mailing address.
Here’s what you’ll need for you notice to vacate:
● Your name and address
● Landlord name and address
● Date: date the notice was prepared and sent
● Notice purpose: clearly stated intentions to move out
● Move-out date: date you expect to be out of the rental
● Request for move-out inspection: request for notice of inspection date
● Security deposit: clearly stated intention to collect security deposit
● Forwarding address
● Your signature at the bottom
After you’ve sent your notice to vacate—and well before your move-out inspection—you’ve got some work to do if you want to collect your full security deposit. The goal is to return your rental back to the condition it was in before you took up residence there. Here’s a list of things you’ll probably want to address:
Patch Holes in the Walls
If you’ve had pictures or decorations on the wall, you’re likely to have small holes left behind when you remove the nails or hangers that held them up. You can fill small holes with spackle or painter’s caulk. If you’ve got small dents, they can be patched with several coats of drywall mud (joint compound) and a little sanding. Lager holes can be patched with a few screws, a small piece of drywall, mud and fiberglass tape—click here to see a quick tutorial on patching holes.
Freshen the Paint
When you’re done patching holes, you’ll want to spot coat them with a couple of coats of paint that match the wall’s current color. You can do this over areas where you have smudges and scuffs, as well. Small touchups won’t require too much investment. A small quart of household latex paint and a disposable brush should do the job.
If you’ve painted your walls a different color than what was there when you moved in, your landlord is probably going to require that you restore them to the original color. This will require a little more work and cost you a little for paint and supplies, but it might be worth to recoup your deposit.
Make Sure They Work
Make sure you replace any burned-out lightbulbs in your rental. And if you’ve got smoke alarms that run on batteries, make sure they all have a fresh set.
Also, if you’ve installed devices like the Google Nest Learning Thermostat, you can take them with you to your new place. But make sure you reinstall the old devices.
Make it Shine
Dust all surfaces and scrub the dirtiest areas like the kitchen and bathrooms. Toilets, sinks, showers, windows and mirrors should sparkle. And your stove burners, oven, fridge/freezer and other appliances should be spotless.
Make sure you sweep and mop floors. And if you’ve got carpet, consider sprinkling a little baking soda into the fibers before you vacuum. Baking soda will help remove any odors, which is especially important if you’ve got pets. Or consider renting a carpet cleaner for a few hours to help remove stubborn stains and odors. Grocery stores and home improvement centers frequently rent these.
Get Rid of Your Junk
Don’t leave anything behind. That includes any cleaning supplies or trash leftover from your deep clean. Remember, landlords don’t want to have to get rid of your stuff, even if it’s just a small bag of trash you forgot about. They want to be able to show the home off to new renters as soon as possible. Make it easy for them, and you’ll likely have an easier time when they go through and perform the move-out inspection.
Don’t Forget Those Keys
Finally, make sure you return any keys, including those used for mailboxes, pools, gyms or laundry rooms.
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