How to get your whole security deposit back


Moving is expensive. There’s no way around it. You have to pay for local movers, cough up a new security deposit, and replace whatever breaks while in transit. The security deposit from your last apartment can ease some of this pain, but you have to get it back first. Most apartment complexes will nickel and dime you until you won’t be able to recognize your old deposit. Follow this guide, and you’ll be able to recoup the majority of your security deposit.

Most apartment complexes use a set of codes when evaluating your vacant flat. These codes are designed to help the complex estimate the cost of your move-out. The monetary value of these codes will differ based on the complex, but can also help you gauge the status of your apartment.

  • NC – needs cleaning
  • NS – needs spot cleaning
  • NP – needs painting
  • NSP – needs spot painting
  • NR – needs repair
  • RP – replace
  • SC – scratched

In my experience, spot cleaning issues tend to be inexpensive. Painting issues are slightly more expensive, and repairs tend to the most expensive. You can use these guidelines to help you prioritize your repairs.

Living Spaces and Bedrooms
  • Thoroughly vacuum, sweep, and mop all floors.
  • NOTE: Some apartment complexes require tenants to provide proof of professional carpet cleaning so it may not be worth your while to DIY this.
  • Wash your walls to remove unsightly stains. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser works great on gloss, semi-gloss, and satin paints.
  • You’ll also want to spackle over holes made my nails or screws. Only touch up the paint if you have access to the original color.
  • Notify apartment complex of any cracks or water damage before you move.
  • Windows
  • Replace torn screens.
  • Notify apartment complex of broken glass before moving.
  • Unless your window treatments are pristine, you will probably take a hit for these. You can replace them yourself, but I don’t think it’s worth the time or money.
  • If painted, clean with another magic eraser
  • If stained, try to color out scratches with a wood marker
  • Replace broken door knobs, only if you can match the style
Closets, Drawers, and Cabinets
  • Wipe off all built in shelves
  • Make sure sliding hinges are in working order
  • Vacuum and sweep thoroughly
Electric Sockets and Light Bulbs
  • Test electric sockets and report any outages to the front office
  • You’ll also want to replace dead light bulbs
  • Wipe down fan blades and report malfunctions to the front office
  • Replace light bulb if burnt out
  • Check ice maker for malfunctions
  • Wipe down the inside and outside of your refrigerator
  • Run the dishwasher without dishes to get rid of excess food particles
  • Verify that all of the outer controls are working
  • Let the oven clean itself, and scrape off remaining residue
  • Verify that your oven light is still working
  • Check the fan above your range
  • Clean drip pans by soaking them in vinegar for five hours
  • Check that all burners are working
  • Check the garbage disposal for glass or other residue
  • Report leaks to management before moving
  • After cleaning the mirrors, check for cracks that may impact your security deposit
  • If you swapped out the shower head, put the original back in place
  • Check for loose or cracked tiles; if you landlord left extras, you can replace these yourself
Toilet Bowl/Seat
  • Tighten the bolts which hold down the toilet bowl seat
  • Clean up your skid marks and leave your toilet bowl pristine
Towel Racks
  • If loose, most towels racks can be tightened with a Phillips head screwdriver

Final Considerations

You’ll also want to verify that other large appliances are clean and in working order. This may include a washing machine, dryer, garage door opener, and more. If any of them are broken, I recommend notifying the apartment complex before you move. In some of these cases, the apartment complex will fix the issue for free or at a low rate.

If you’re renting a house, you should also consider cleaning the gutters and other exterior surfaces. This can get pricey, so I recommend that you request a free cleaning estimate and weigh the cost of cleaners against the cost of your security deposit.

Written by: Matt Lawler

Matt Lawler is a lifestyle blogger, Internet marketing specialist and a graduate of Arizona State University. When he isn’t writing, Matt likes to enjoy the outdoors. He can often be found hiking, cycling or finding new ways to explore his home state of Arizona.

Tags : advicepaymentsreal estateRentingsecurity deposittips
Emily Stewart

The author Emily Stewart

Emily is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at RentMoola. She's a reader, skier, and self-proclaimed Beyonce superfan.