Almost all leases require a security deposit. The deposit is held by the landlord for the length of the lease to guard against losses incurred due to damage not resulting from normal wear and tear, or from a tenant moving out before the lease expires. The security deposit is usually equal to one month’s rent, and is paid in advance or with the first month’s rent. How the security deposit is to be paid and when will be specified in the lease.
In addition to the security deposit, some complexes have additional fees that need to be paid prior to move-in, such as a pet deposit or fee. Make sure you ask about any of these other fees ahead of time, and consult your lease for an outline of any additional fees.
To help ensure that a fair amount of your security deposit is returned to you at the end of your lease, thoroughly fill out a damage checklist when you move-in. Many apartment complexes will provide this document for you, and it can sometimes be referred to as a “walk through.” As a part of this checklist, you should document any damages you notice in the apartment that were present prior to you moving in, and it can be a good idea to take pictures or video of these damages as well. This checklist and any pictures should be completed prior to moving any items into your off campus housing. A copy of this checklist should also be provided to your landlord within 5 days of moving in, and a copy kept for your records. Should your landlord not provide you with a move-in damage checklist, a sample one is available here. Hard copies of this Damage Checklist are also available in our Off-Campus Life office.
*Note: If you begin completing the move-in checklist prior to moving into the apartment and notice problems that should not be present, need immediate attention, or are unsatisfied with the condition or cleanliness of the apartment, do not move your stuff into the apartment and immediately contact your landlord to address this situation and find a solution that works. Completing the checklist and moving in items indicates consent to living in the apartment in its current condition.*
In addition, to help ensure that a fair amount of your security deposit is returned to you at the end of your lease, be sure to check your lease for any guidelines on cleaning that needs to be completed prior to move-out. Many apartment complexes will deduct cleaning fees from the security deposit for any items not cleaned to move-out specifications in the lease. It can also be helpful to request in writing that your landlord completed a walk-through upon move-out with you present. It is your right by law to be present at such a walk-through, and you can request this in writing. A sample letter that you can send to your landlord to request being present at the final inspection is available here, along with instructions for completion, and a hard copy can be picked up in our office.
Your security deposit should be returned to you within 45 days of the end of your lease if there have been no problems. If only a portion of the security deposit can be returned, your landlord should send this amount and is required to sent with it an itemized list of any deductions from this deposit.
Typical Requirements for a Security Deposit to be Returned are
- A Move-In Condition Inventory Form (Damage Checklist) is completed and returned within 5 days of moving into the apartment.
- A Move-Out Condition Inventory Form/ Final Inspection is completed in the empty, cleaned apartment with the landlord.
- The off campus housing was occupied for the entire lease term.
- Written notice was given of intention to vacate the property.
- The apartment was cleaned according to move-out cleaning instructions given in the lease.
- All rent was paid according to the terms and conditions of the lease.
- All keys to the property and/or mailbox have been returned to the landlord.
- The landlord has been provided with a forwarding address for you where they can send your security deposit.