How to Get Your Apartment Deposit Back

If you’ve ever rented, or are currently renting, you’ve come into brief contact with the ever-elusive apartment security deposit. It’s so rare for a renter to earn his or her deposit back that most people consider those hundreds of dollars gone forever the moment they’re handed over to management. So what are renters doing wrong? Is there a way to actually earn back your security deposit or is it a lost cause?

Before You Move In

First things first, make sure you’re moving into an apartment community with a reputable leasing company. This is one of the many instances when using a free apartment locator comes in handy. They develop professional relationships with the best apartment communities in town, and the locator can recommend the best one for you.

During Your Stay

On average, renters will stay one to two years in their apartment. During that time, there will be plenty of opportunities for spills, stains and tears and anything else you can dream up. The key is to minimize damage by acting immediately. Always keep a color-safe stain remover in your cleaning arsenal. Remember, the best way to clean a stain is to immediately soak it in stain remover, allowing the stain to rise, and then blot it away with a clean cloth. Do NOT scrub away at it. This will only spread it and set it deeper into your carpet. Also, nothing can make a room seem more dingy than dust and dirt. You should be vacuuming at least once a week (and more if you have pets). If you have dogs or cats, be sure to regularly wash or vacuum cloth furniture, open windows occasionally to air out the room and keep your pets clean to minimize pet odors.

Moving Out

Some apartment communities require a non-refundable cleaning deposit. If you paid one of those, feel free to ‘broom clean’ your apartment. That means all of your stuff is out of the apartment, off the balcony/patio and out of the hallways, the fridge and cabinets are clean and empty and all trash has been properly disposed of. If you didn’t pay a cleaning deposit, get ready to get your scrub on.

In the bathrooms and kitchen, bleach (and cleaning products containing it) is your best friend. While wearing protective gloves, get to work on sinks, toilets, showers, the fridge and more. Be sure to keep your rooms properly ventilated. Also, when using bleach, make sure that your products are safe for the surface you’re cleaning. For floors, sweep and mop tile, wood or linoleum and vacuum all carpets.

A few of the most overlooked spots when cleaning are:

  • The oven. Depending on how dirty your oven is, you may have to let the spray-on cleaner soak overnight. Make sure not to turn on your oven during this time and to follow the cleaning product’s instructions to the T.
  • The sides of your fridge. You’ll be surprised at the amount of dirt, debris and grime that gathers between the side of your fridge and the adjacent cabinet. Carefully slide your fridge far enough from the cabinet so a vacuum cleaner attachment can clear out that space. Also, remember to wipe down the sides of the fridge and cabinet.
  • Mold. Mold can develop on the walls and ceilings of bathrooms, closets, laundry rooms and anywhere else moisture may exist. Be sure to bleach it away.
  • Windows. While most renters remember to Windex mirrors and microwave doors, sliding doors and windows are often neglected. Make sure to leave them sparkling.

Attention to detail is key when cleaning with your deposit in mind. Follow your community’s provided checklist carefully, or ask management for one if it wasn’t provided. Know ahead of time your community’s policies on carpet cleaning and replacement to avoid repeat charges (why should you pay for a carpet cleaning if they’re replacing the carpet anyways?). The best thing to remember is how the place looked when you moved in and how you would want it to look for the next renter. Take it from your friends at Move For Free: Follow these easy guidelines and there’s a very real chance that you’ll receive that security deposit in the mail at your new residence.