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10 reasons why you aren’t getting your security deposit back

An astonishing 108 million Americans are renters, according to a recent Rocket Lawyer survey. That means, a good portion of the U.S. population (34 percent) goes through the process of renting out a property from a landlord. Most of us are familiar with it. Rental application. Reference letters. Security deposit. The first two: no sweat. But the last step? It still seems perplexing.

We found ten common reasons why tenants don’t receive their security deposit. Of course, your particular lease agreement may have unique clauses that we don’t list below, but this is a general guideline.

Here are 10 reasons why you’re simply not getting your security deposit back:

  1. You don’t know the basics of rental law or your tenant rights. You don’t have to become a rental law expert by any means. It’s just a reminder to stay proactive. If something your landlord is doing seems off, we have great resources to jumpstart your research and help you get protected.
  1. You didn’t read your lease carefully or learn and follow the rules. Your lease agreement not only protects your landlord but you as the tenant. Before you sign anything, make sure you agree with everything that’s put into writing. And more important, learn and follow the clauses of the agreement, which can help give your landlord less reasons to deduct from your deposit.
  1. You didn’t inspect the property thoroughly or take photos. Before you sign anything, be sure to walk through the initial inspection with your landlord. Make sure that they record all damages and take photos of each room. This is to ensure that you won’t have to pay damages that actually occurred before you moved in.
  1. You didn’t document everything or anything for that matter. One of the biggest tips for dealing with business or anything legal? Put it in writing! Keep all correspondences and paperwork (or “digital work”) in a secure place. You may need it later to use it as reference when your landlord doesn’t remember agreeing to upgrading your rundown stove.
  1. You didn’t report or fix damages. Have a leaky faucet? Tell your landlord. Immediately. If the repairs are longstanding, your lease may not allow you to be reimbursed for the damages, whether they were inadvertent or not.
  1. You didn’t give your landlord enough notice. In most states, if you’re renting month to month, you must give them 30 days notice. If not, your landlord could take that extra month of rent from your security deposit.
  1. You don’t know how the landlord can use your deposit. When you move out, find out if what your landlord is charging against your deposit is a part of normal wear and tear. In most cases, you won’t be responsible for ordinary wear and tear.
  1. You don’t know when the landlord must return the deposit. If you haven’t received your return in three weeks, you should contact your landlord as soon as possible. In most states, there’s a hard deadline (usually three weeks after you move out) for the landlord to return your deposit. Stay connected with your landlord after you move out so you can make sure you get your return on time.
  1. You didn’t meet with your landlord to do an exit inspection. Hopefully, you did an initial inspection and took photos because that’ll make your exit inspection that much easier. Ensure that there’s no discrepancy between your landlord’s report and your observations. Use what you recorded at the initial inspection for reference.
  1. You didn’t give your landlord your forwarding address. OK, this might seem like a no brainer but often times minor details, like providing a simple forwarding address, are easily overlooked.

Don’t worry if you’re guilty of any of the blunders above (we’ve all been there). Want to learn more? Visit our tenants rights center to discover how to protect yourself in your next rental situation.


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