How Safe Is Your Security Deposit?


When you move into an apartment, you and your landlord have to have a lot of blind faith for each other. You could be “Mr. Nice Guy”, or “Mr. I’m Going To Throw Parties Here Every Night Guy.”

Tenants are usually not into maintenance,How Safe Is Your Security Deposit? Articles therefore they aren’t as careful with their rented property as they would be if they owned it. They also tend to see maintenance as the landlord’s job. So, in order to assure the landlord that any damages made to the apartment while you are a tenant will be covered, most apartment complexes require a security deposit.

The deposit is usually equivalent to about two months rent. The reasons?

* If you fail to pay the rent one month, it won’t come out of the landlord’s pocket. He has the right to use your deposit.

* If there are any major damages made to the apartment when your lease is up, he can use the remaining deposit to make any repairs.

But what if the landlord claims you made that hole in the wall when you know it was there before you were? Nothing, really. At that point it’s probably too late to fight back. According to MetLife, this is why you take precautions before you sign the lease. When you think you’re going to live in an apartment, and it’s almost a done deal, go around the apartment and check EVERYTHING for problems. Here’s a check list of some of the major things you should check out/look for:

Door locks: Do they turn easily? Can you be assured the landlord re-keyed/replaced them since the last tenant?

Smoke detectors: Are there any? Do they work properly?

Walls: Are they marked, dented, scratched, or cracked?

Pipes: Are they in good condition, or are they rusty?

Leaks: Check under the kitchen sink, by the front door, the ceiling, and throughout the bathroom for water damage.

Tiles: Are they all there? Are they in good shape?

Doors: Are they evenly painted? Are they marked/dented/scraped etc.?

Carpet: Is it fastened securely? Stained?

Paint: Is it smooth or chipping off?

If you see anything that could pose a problem in the future, you’ll need to document it. The best way to do this is by taking a picture of the damaged item/area, and then making a log describing all of the pictures. Get the landlord to sign and date the log, and you sign and date it too. This way, you cannot be accused of damage you didn’t do.

Robert Irwin, author of The Landlord’s Troubleshooter, published by Dearborn, offers some helpful hints: “It is absolutely necessary that you use precise language to describe any exceptions to ‘clean and undamaged’ that you write down. For example, there may be a mark in a wall caused by the previous tenant having hit it with a dresser while moving out. If you write down, ‘back wall of bedroom is marked,’ you could be in for real trouble. When this tenant moves out, that wall could be covered from floor to ceiling with marks and when you protest, the tenant will point to the walk-through saying, ‘See, you wrote down that the wall was marked!'”

In many cases, you can insist that the landlord make the repair before you move in, especially if it is likely to get worse, or put you or others at risk. If you do this before you sign the lease you will avoid future misunderstandings.

Your landlord could be the friendliest person in the world and turn into a pit bull when it comes time to return your security deposit. So, make sure there isn’t a fine print clause in your rental contract that allows the landlord to keep some of your deposit for “cleaning.” Again, before you sign the lease, ask the landlord to define the conditions in writing under which you would get or not get your deposit back.

Also, when your lease is up, plan to have the landlord walk through the apartment with you again. Compare the apartment to the pictures taken before and make sure you both agree on everything.

Understanding what you need to do in order to earn your deposit back will go a long way toward parting company with your landlord on good terms, with your security deposit safely back in your pocket.

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Author: Piyawut Sutthiruk

Welcome to Thailand, the land of smiles, beautiful sights, delicious foods and the friendliest people in the world.

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