8 Signs You’re Not Getting Your Security Deposit Back from Your Landlord

Deborah K. Vick

When you rent an apartment or house, you usually have to cough up a sizable security deposit to protect the landlord from any damage that might occur while you live there.

It’s almost impossible to live in a place for any amount of time without some amount of normal wear and tear, so most landlords aren’t going to try and keep your money for minor issues. But there are definitely some who’ll use even the smallest excuse to keep some (or all!) of your deposit. However, even the kindest, most considerate landlord is going to have a difficult time overlooking some common things tenants let happen!

Let’s take a look at 8 signs that you’re probably not getting your entire security deposit back at the end of your lease:

1) Your cat took a…pss pss pss

Even if your landlord was cool with you owning a cat, there’s not a chance he or she will overlook the smell of cat urine. It’s so hard to get rid of that odor, and it’ll make it hard for your landlord to rent it to someone else who happens to have a nose. So if your cat takes a tinkle, make sure to clean it better than Mr. Clean would, or prepare to part with at least some of your security deposit.

2) Fido needed fiber?

Most dogs love a good chew toy. Some dogs chew bones… Some gnaw on slippers… And some prefer chomping on woodwork and sheetrock. If your dog does a number on the door jamb, or chews a hole straight through a bedroom door, you’re probably gonna need to do some repair work—or expect your landlord to use some of your security deposit to patch things up.

3) You knocked out a wall…

Most renters probably aren’t going to literally knock out a wall in order to open up the living space. But you’d be amazed at how many people choose violence with a wall when they’re upset. Sure, it’s better than beating up whoever actually ticked you off, but a fist hole in the wall is going to cost you more than the bloody knuckles it probably caused in the first place.

4) Bright colors aren’t a bright idea…

If you’re going to live in a place for a while, you might want to brighten up your digs with a coat of paint that isn’t as bland as the 33 coats of “landlord white” the owner has slathered on the walls. Always check with your landlord before you do any painting, but if you’re given permission, don’t expect a rosy reception from the landlord if you leave the place pretty in pink at the end of the lease. Get yourself some nice neutral paint and give it a fresh coat before moving, or expect your landlord to deduct the cost of doing so from your security deposit.

5) Don’t dash without your trash…

If you forget a thing or two in the kitchen drawers, most landlords aren’t going to charge you for getting rid of it. But if they need to clean out piles of junk—or even just a bunch of bags of trash you left behind—you’re probably going to pay the landlord for getting your garbage gone.

6) Smoking is dangerous…

Not only is smoking dangerous to your health, it’s also dangerous to your security deposit. The stale smell of smoke is almost (bot not quite!) as hard to get rid of as the smell of cat urine. So if you smoke cigarettes, cigars, or (ahem) anything else, try and do it outside, or get yourself an ozone air purifier and cross your fingers that it takes care of the smell. If not, bank on your landlord keeping some of the security you had in the bank.

7) A little trickle can turn into a big pickle

Depending upon your landlord and terms of the lease, you may be responsible for taking care of some maintenance and repairs up to a certain dollar amount. But even if you’re not, you can be held responsible for not alerting your landlord to issues that need to be addressed in a timely manner. So if you see even the tiniest leak, for instance, make sure you get it addressed before it turns into more damage that will have to be covered by your deposit.

8) Your landlord is one that will use even the smallest excuse…

Like we talked about in the opening, most landlords are fairly reasonable people, but there are some who will find any excuse to justify keeping your security deposit. Prepare to defend yourself by taking pictures of your place when you first move in, document anything that happens during your time there, and make sure to have your landlord inspect the place and sign off that it’s in good shape (in writing) before you move out for good.

Hopefully those tips will help you get all of your security deposit back—with interest even! But if you’re sick of worrying about landlords being the judge, jury, and executioner when it comes to your security deposit…

…the best solution is to hit up your favorite real estate agent to help you buy a place of your own! That way your cat can pee in the corner, next to where your dog ate the baseboard trim at the bottom of the pink wall that you punched a hole in, while smoking a cigarette because you were angry about the leaky faucet.

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