It can feel like Christmas when at the end of the lease agreement you get your security deposit back. Although it seems unlikely, it happens more often than you think (especially if you completed a move-in checklist and took detailed pictures of the apartment's condition when you got it). Here are some tips to make sure you don't get charged fix-up fees and instead get all of your money back.
- Pay any outstanding bills. Late rent fees, utility overages and other fees owed to the complex or its partners will be deducted from your security deposit. Much like the university pays itself your tuition before handing out financial aid; apartment complexes also have to pay themselves before they return your security deposit.
- Check your records. Pull out your move-in checklist and photos you took upon move-in and compare them to your apartment now. You want to make sure everything looks exactly the way it did when you moved in.
- Clean Up Your Mess. Apartment complexes have to pay cleaning companies to make sure apartments are in move-in order. Any extra fees they have to pay for tough-to-clean ovens, toilets, cabinets or refrigerators will be paid with your security deposit.
- Upkeep. Routinely cleaning your apartment will keep tough-to-beat grime and dirt from accumulating, making the final cleaning process much less painful. It will also keep your apartment looking the way it did when you moved in.
- Paint. Or in the case of renting, don't paint. Complexes require that the apartment is retuned in the manner it was presented; this includes walls being the same color. It might seem like a good idea to paint your personality on your walls. But you'll be regretting it when you get slapped with a repainting fee, or when you're trying to cover up forest green walls with 20 layers of eggshell white.
- Fix it. Burned out light bulbs, smudges on walls… the little things add up. Fix minor problems yourself to avoid being charged an extra fee for materials and labor.
- Report problems. Is your AC dragging? Your shower not draining? Call maintenance as soon as you notice a problem to avoid the problem getting worse and having to pay for it after you've moved out.
- Inspection time. You have the option to "walk" the apartment with the office staff when they inspect your apartment before move out. This way you can see for yourself what you might be charged for.
- Leave nothing behind. Complexes will charge you for taking out your trash or tossing the old cosmetic bag you didn't want. Avoid the nominal fees by making sure you leave with everything you came in with.
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