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Moving into a new apartment can be exciting, but it can also be stressful. Whether you decide to buy or rent, you will have to provide some cash upfront. If you go the rental route, you will likely have to pay first month’s rent, a large security deposit and sometimes even the last month’s rent. You will hopefully get that deposit back, but a lot can happen between your new moving day and the next one. Here are some tips to help ensure you get your security deposit back.

1. Read Your Lease

It may sound obvious, but it is important for renters to read and understand your responsibilities as a renter before signing on the dotted line. Your landlord may require all sorts of property maintenance you would not know about unless you carefully reviewed your lease. You also may be limited in upgrades and improvements you can make, so going through the paperwork at the very beginning is an important step to getting your security deposit back.

2. Document Condition

Before you move in, carefully inspect your new residence and document all existing problems so you will not be held responsible down the line for issues that were already there. Your landlord may provide you with a document to help you do this, but it’s a good idea to take some pictures for your own records as well and hold on to all evidence in case something arises.

3. Be Clean & Maintain Condition

The best way to ensure you get your deposit back is to take good care of your rental property. You should think of it as a home you own and avoid leaving a mess and addressing problems as quickly and efficiently as possible. You may want to consider paying for small repairs that you caused because it will likely be much less than the leasing company will charge you upon your exit.

4. Communicate With Your Landlord

Don’t be a stranger, because the better your renter-landlord relationship is, the less likely they are to keep your security deposit unnecessarily. Sometimes landlords are not receptive to this, but it’s important that you can communicate any improvements you want permission to make and repairs you need. Keeping records is incredibly important, so try to keep your conversations in writing or over accessible and printable email.

Once you’ve moved out, make sure you’re on the same page. A serious disagreement could wind up as a collections account (we hear horror stories about this all the time!), and could hurt your good credit, limiting your options next time you rent, since landlords often pull your credit reports before approving you for an apartment. (You can check your free credit report summary on Credit.com to see where you stand.)

5. Know Your Rights

Your landlord is required to give you a reason and explanation as to why you did not receive your deposit back by law in most states. Specific renter-landlord regulations vary by state and sometimes even more locally, so make sure you know your rights as a tenant in your city or community. At the very least, make yourself aware of how long your landlord has to return your deposit and what legal recourse you have if they refuse to give up the money and/or you dispute the damages they claim.

It’s important to remember that your security deposit is worth the effort to ensure it is refunded to you. Keep the best records you can, develop a good relationship with your landlord and follow the rest of these tips to increase your chances.

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