Mark Roemer image of a security deposit clause on a rental contract.

Ways to Ensure You’ll Get Your Security Deposit Back

When it comes to renting an apartment, things may cost a little more than you previously thought. For instance, there may be additional fees for parking, storage, refurnishing the place, or painting the walls. One such additional cost that many people overlook is the addition of a security deposit. Since no law governs the application or return of security deposits, it can be a little tricky. I, Mark Roemer, am going to teach you how to get your security deposit back after you have finished renting your apartment.

Naturally, after you have finished living in an apartment, you are going to want to get back your security deposit. The fee can range from one to two months worth of rent. The reason that many landlords choose to apply this to the lease is that in their experience, it can take that long to re-rent the apartment. This can be for several different reasons. The first one is that they rent in an area that does not have that many people wanting to rent a property. Second is that when they do rent the apartment, the tenants damage the property so much that it takes them longer than it should to re-rent the property. In either case, they should be owed a portion of the security deposit.

Assuming that you give the landlord an appropriate amount of time to show the apartment and you have not done any significant damage to the property, you are no doubt owed your money back. Let’s take a look at a few of the ways that you can ensure this will happen.

Read the Lease

Before you sign on the line, make sure you have taken the time you need to review the conditions of the lease. This can be the number one defense you have when it comes to getting your money back. In most cases, the landlord will lay down in writing exactly what they expect from you. If they go beyond, you should not sign the lease. Meaning, you should be covered for normal wear and tear. If the landlord expects the return of the property in the exact or better state in which they rented it to you, then it is better to find another place to live. Expectations of this magnitude will only cost you more money in the long run.

Some of the most common items that the landlord can expect from you to keep in top shame are walls, floors, and windows. In other words, the walls should not be dented or stained in any way, the floors should remain clean, and the windows should not be cracked. If any of these things should happen as a result of circumstances out of your control, then you should report it to the landlord immediately. I will give you an example.

Let’s say that you are living in an apartment with an upstairs neighbor. One night you are sitting in the family room watching television. All of a sudden, you hear copious amounts of water falling from the ceiling in the kitchen. The result is stained walls and damaged floors. If you notify the landlord of the problem, they have to fix it. Should you try to clean up the mess yourself and thousands of dollars have to be shelled out as a result of you not telling them, you could be on the hook for the damage.

Record Everything

From the second, you take possession of the apartment, start detailing things. This includes keeping a written record and photographs. This will help you to jog the memory of a landlord that is claiming you never notified them of the damages. It would not be a bad idea to send them a certified letter to protect yourself, either. Doing this makes them sign for the document. They will not have the ability to say they never knew about it.

In the example I described above, you are going to want to note the time and date of the incident. Note whether or not you were able to get a hold of the landlord. Describe all the steps you took to ensure their property was safeguarded. Do not forget to take pictures of yourself conducting this work. After all, is said and done, make sure you get copies of the photographs, along with the detailed account of your actions, and send them certified mail.

Maintain and Fix

There are certain items in the apartment that you are responsible for maintaining and fixing if necessary. Some of the things you need to be aware of are scratches to the floor (assuming you do not have wall to wall carpet), dirty handprints on the walls, nail holes from hanging pictures (yes, you should fill those when you move out), and food stains on carpeted areas (assuming you do not have all hardwood floors).

Some would say that you should take care of an apartment as if you had bought it. This is an excellent way to think about it. If you treat the apartment with all the love and respect that you would if you owned the property, then you will never have to worry about getting back your security deposit.

So, when you find something wrong with your house, fix it. That is not to say that you have to fix everything that goes wrong with the apartment. There are some things that the landlord should do. The rent you are paying them covers two things. Number one it includes the property taxes they owe at the end of the year. Number two it covers the cost of repairs and upgrades they make to the apartment. However, the little things should be covered by you.


Renting an apartment can be a great way to save some money on a place to live. However, as I, Mark Roemer, have suggested, it can end up costing you a lot more than you once thought. Just take care of the house as if you would your property. Make sure to have people that come to your home respect it too. Claiming you didn’t do it, but someone you invited over did, is not going to get your deposit back.