It would be so easy to just pay a security deposit, and then receive it back when you move out. However, there are circumstances and regulations that may inhibit that simple process—but there are steps you can take to make the return of your security deposit smoother and easier.
Thinking ahead before you move out can save you a load of hassles later—and get your full security deposit returned. If you have a fixed-term lease, such as a 12-month lease, and you have to move out, find another tenant to take over your lease. For a month-to-month lease, give the appropriate amount of notice (i.e. 30 days, 15 days, etc.) as specified in the lease you signed. If you don’t give proper notice, your landlord may be allowed to deduct the amount of unpaid rent from your security deposit.
When you give notice, inquire about the expectations of your landlord. What condition do they expect your rental to be in after you move it? When you get an answer, make an effort to thoroughly clean your rental and leave it in the condition described by your landlord. Take pictures of the rental after you move out to ensure you have documentation in case of any future conflict.
By law, your landlord does not need to return your security deposit immediately when you move out. Be patient and wait for the deposit, which is typically (dependent upon local regulations) within 21 days. Usually you receive the deposit (or what remains of the deposit) in the mail with a statement detailing any deductions taken from the security deposit.
Contact the landlord.
If you disagree with the amount of security deposit that is returned, (calmly) contact your landlord. State the reason you disagree with any deductions, and discuss steps needed for resolution. Document the date and time of your call (or calls) and discussions for future reference, if needed.
Get legal advice.
If these steps have not resolved your issue, contact an experienced, local real estate lawyer. The lawyer can outline your options to get your security deposit back, such as pursuing the matter in small claims court, or can assist you with further actions, such as drafting a strong letter to your landlord, which may resolve your problem.
Consider small claims court.
You may be able to get your security deposit back in small claims court. There is a small cost to the process, so make sure the amount of your security deposit is worth your time and effort. You don’t need a lawyer to represent you in small claims court, but contacting a lawyer can increase your chance of success.