Moving to a new apartment is expensive enough without losing the security deposit on your old place. Luckily, a few quick steps before you move in and some elbow grease on that grout in the bathroom on your way out and you’ll be in great shape to hit the road with your money back in your pocket.
Here’s how it’s done:
Document like it’s a crime scene. You've picked up your new keys and your glorious new life in your beautiful new apartment is about to begin! But before you unload a single box, grab your camera and document e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.
Sure, you’re probably fine with a few bent slats on the mini-blinds and some light scratches on the hardwood, but the only way you won’t be held responsible for creating them when you move out is if you have photographic evidence proving they predated your arrival.
Email the photos to your landlord (creating a time stamp in the process—ta da!) and keep copies for yourself. For the vast majority of rental agreements, this should be more than sufficient to cover your legal bases and it might even mean the landlord will fix any issues for you right away to make your new place even nicer.
Put those high school close reading skills to use. Thanks to close reading, you know a lot about The Scarlett Letter. That Pearl was a piece of work, wasn't she? You need to know at least as much about your rental agreement. Read it well—both before and after you sign—paying particular attention to rules about customization, subletting and expectations for your move-out. Knowing and playing by the rules is 90 percent of the battle.
See something? Say something. It’s a home and things are going to happen to it. Sometimes it’s plumbing, sometimes it’s electric, sometimes it’s bugs. Which is rough. But no matter what the issue is, if it’s bigger than changing a light bulb, call the landlord. It’s nearly always easier to fix a problem early on rather than letting it progress into a major issue that affects your comfort and safety.
Clean it like you mean it. When it comes time to leave your rental for someplace new, take a page from the Boy Scouts and leave your campsite better than you found it. The last tenant didn't clean on top of the fan blades? You should. And not just for the karma points either; the best way to keep your landlord from docking money from your deposit is to eliminate any opportunities for him or her to do so.
Leave a forwarding address. You’re moving, right? Let the landlord know where to. It sounds simple (and it is), but there’s a lot going on when you move and remembering to tell Grandma but not your old landlord where to find you means you’ll get a birthday card, but no refund.
Good luck and happy refunding!