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How to Get Your Security Deposit Back

Posted: August 15, 2023
A bed is being wrapped up as the tenant prepares to leave their home.

When you moved into your apartment or home, you probably put down a security deposit when filling out your application. Now that you’ve decided to leave your home for a new home, it’s time to receive your security deposit. 

Our Moving Help® guide will give you the steps for you to earn your entire or at least part of your security deposit. Our guide also will help you in the future in case you don’t receive your entire deposit this time around. 

What Is a Security Deposit?

A security deposit is money given to a landlord, lender, or seller of a home or apartment as proof of intent to move in and care for the home, according to Depending on your lease, a security deposit can be refundable or nonrefundable. A security deposit can be used to pay for damage or lost property when a person leaves the home.

Plan Ahead to Get Your Security Deposit Back

To receive your security deposit, you’ll want to plan ahead by taking care of any tasks before moving out of your apartment. The first step is to look at your lease to see when you have to give notice that you’re leaving. 

Some leases require 30 days, others require 60 days, and others require a different number of days. You don’t want to accidentally auto-renew your lease because you didn’t give enough notice. 

To give notice that you’re leaving, you need to give a written notice to your landlord. It’s best to have it delivered via certified mail along with a receipt that your landlord received your written notice. 

In case your landlord’s relationship goes south, you have documentation your landlord received it. You also should keep an extra copy of your written notice. 

After giving written notice, here’s a list of items to think about before moving out of your home. 

  • Be there for the landlord inspection 
  • Confirm cleaning plans with your landlord 
  • Get your rental in good shape by fixing any damages caused by you, your pets, or guests 
  • Possible fixes include patching holes, painting walls to the original colors, changing out smoke detector batteries, and changing light bulbs 
  • Return house keys, mail key, pool key, gate key, and other keys you originally received 
  • Remove everything when you leave, including garbage, food, cleaning supplies, and any remaining belongings
  • Have a final inspection with your landlord to go over all repairs in the previous inspection 

Give Yourself Time to Clean

You should be moved out of your home a couple of days before your lease is up. An important part of earning your security deposit is cleaning your home. Most leases require “broom-swept” condition, but since “broom-swept” condition has its own interpretation for everyone, it’s best to leave the place brand-new clean.

You can hire someone to clean your place, or you can follow our cleaning checklist when you move out. In the future, you can check out our apartment cleaning checklist to keep your place clean on a weekly or monthly basis.

Another tip is to clean after moving everything out. First of all, moving can cause dust and dirt and make everything messy. So, unless you want to do a deep clean twice, you’ll want to wait until everything is out of the way. 

Document Everything

Now unless you were the first person living in a brand-new place or renovated place, your home probably has preexisting conditions. It’s important that you document it with pictures and video. Your place also should have an apartment inspection checklist to check mark the condition of everything in your home.

When you leave your place, you should document everything again with pictures and videos. If you’re worried about not receiving your full security deposit, bring a friend or family member as an eyewitness. This documentation will help you receive your security deposit. 

Your security deposit shouldn’t go toward wear and tear but actual damage to your home. For example, furniture marks on carpet are wear and tear, but a giant hole in the wall is beyond normal wear and tear.

Final Steps for Security Deposit

Two final steps that people tend to forget about when trying to earn their security deposit are leaving a forwarding address and paying last month’s rent. 

Your landlord must send your security deposit by check in the mail. If you don’t leave a forwarding address, they won’t have anywhere to send it. Additionally, if you don’t leave a forwarding address and after so much time passes, the landlord can keep the security deposit.

Depending on what your lease says, your security deposit may or may not cover last month’s rent. It’s important to ask because you’re usually required to pay your last month’s rent. If you don’t pay it, that money will come out of your security deposit plus any damages to your home. This is a bad way to not earn your entire security deposit back.

When Do I Receive My Security Deposit?

Each state is different on when you’ll receive your security deposit from your landlord.

For example, in Arizona, a landlord must return your security deposit with an itemized statement of deductions within 14 days of the tenant moving out. In Texas, for example, a landlord must return your security deposit within 30 days provided you’ve given them your forwarding address already.

You should receive your security deposit check, an itemized statement on how the security deposit was applied toward rent, cleaning, and if applicable, repairs.

What If I Don’t Receive My Security Deposit?

If you don’t receive your security deposit from your landlord within the timeframe of your state’s laws, you should follow up with your landlord — whether over the phone, in email, or in person. If they still don’t give you your security deposit, you can write a security deposit demand letter.

If the landlord still doesn’t give you your security deposit, you can sue your landlord in a small claims court. You’ll need to write a demand letter first before going to court to sue your landlord. 

Earning Your Security Deposit 

You’re entitled to at least part of or all your security deposit. The more you take good care of your home, the more likely you’ll receive your security deposit without too many deductions to repair your home. If you plan ahead, keep a good relationship with your landlord, you shouldn’t have too much trouble receiving your security deposit back.