In renting a home or apartment, the importance of deposit protection should not be underestimated. Following a few basic tips is a good way to stay protected against unscrupulous landlords. Tenants need to read the rental contract carefully and ask for an inventory from the landlord. Tenants should also make their own inventory and record the condition of the property with photos and/or video. Always clean up before leaving and contact the small claims court if a landlord is unfairly holding on to a deposit.
One of the basic rules of deposit protection is to always thoroughly read the rental contract. Check to make sure there are no hidden clauses or items that are not easily understood. If anything in the contract is unclear, ask the landlord for clarification.
Request an inventory from the landlord. If either party is unsure what is contained on the premises, there could be arguments about missing or broken items when the lease is up. When the landlord provides the inventory, go over it carefully to ensure there are no omissions.
Another important deposit protection tip involves tenants making their own inventory before or when they move in. There is every possibility that the landlord has missed something in the property so it is up to the tenant to carefully search every nook and cranny. If any existing damage to furniture, walls, or floors, for example, is excluded from the landlord’s inventory, report it immediately.
Taking pictures or making a video inside the home or apartment is another step forward when it comes to deposit protection. Writing reports of stained carpets and molded walls is one thing, visual evidence is quite another. If tenants find that cracks manifest themselves in the walls or ceiling during their stay, these should be photographed and reported to the landlord.
When the time comes to leave, tenants must clean the property completely. Dirty walls and doors do not reflect well with many landlords who might use any patches of dirt to justify hiring a cleaning company and subtracting the cost from the security deposit. The best deposit protection tip perhaps is to constantly clean the house and keep it in reasonable condition throughout the lease. This ensures that an enormous clean-up operation is unnecessary when the contract is up.
Tenants need to try and remember where every item was left before they moved in. For example, if chairs and tables that belong to the landlord were moved from one room to another, they should be returned to their original location. Also, do not leave any personal belongings behind. Some landlords charge extra for the removal of abandoned items.
Should all of the above deposit protection tips fail and the landlord holds on to the money, it is possible to seek legal action. Small claims court generally handles disputes over deposits. If tenants can prove that their deposit is being unfairly held, the landlord may have to pay up to triple the value of the initial security deposit depending upon the laws of the jurisdiction.