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Monday, March 2, 2015

How To Get More of Your Security Deposit Back

I grew up in a one-bedroom apartment and a two-bedroom duplex until I left for college at UCSB.  Moving from the apartment on Sunny Ct. in East San Jose to the duplex on S. 12th St. in Central SJ gave me my first experience with vacating a place in the United States.  My parents talked about the rent openly (the challenge of making the total amount) all the time with my older sister and me.  My dad’s temper would worsen whenever he received notification of a rent increase in the mail.  These letters came in annually when we lived at the one-bedroom apartment, run by a property management company.  That is what forced us to move.


My mother (right) with my aunt at the old apartment on Sunny Ct.  Circa 1984

The owner of the duplex, on the other hand, was a do-it-yourself landlord.  I recalled he was far more lenient when it came to keeping the rent amount stable.  My parents were great tenants, always paying on time.  My father would fix things with the landlord’s permission and this was a trade-off that kept the rent from rising for many years.

My father with his mother on the left and his mother-in-law on the right at the duplex on S. 12th St.  Why is he holding a teddy bear?  He's probably trying to find a happy place.  Circa 1986.

Even before renting my own apartment at UCSB, I knew how to read a rental agreement.  Some things on a rental agreement were obvious, for example, the rent amount, the due date, how much more to pay if the rent was late, whether pets were allowed, if the place had Radon gas or not, and the amount of the security deposit.  The security deposit was always something I made sure to speak with my future landlord about.  Like everyone else, I wanted back as much, if not all, of my security deposit when moving out.  Believe it or not, getting your security deposit back in full begins the day you move in!

Did you and your landlord do a walkthrough inspection at move-in?  If not, then there is no evidence of there being some previous damage (a visual blemish) having occurred prior to you moving in.  There are stains that can’t be removed, damage that requires a replacement, and if you didn’t bother to let your landlord know these were in existence, he or she may use this as an excuse to subtract from your security deposit refund.  Compare it to renting a car.  What does a company like Enterprise do before letting you drive off with their asset?  Their salesperson goes through a full outside and interior inspection with you, noting scratches, kinks in the fiberglass, etc.  They have a carbon copy ready for you to keep by the end of the inspection, and when you return from your trip they use this to compare the vehicle in its return shape.  You’re liable for any new damage to the vehicle.  This is how renting a place should be.

When you vacate an apartment or other rental, have you ever been told just to leave the key and lock the door?  If so, you’ve been had!  This is a sure way of getting you for all your money!  Always, always, ask your landlord for a final walk-through inspection.  Make sure you tell your landlord that you want him/her to identify areas that need attention.  They must give you time to address whatever they find “wrong” in terms of your cleaning or with defects.  This is the law!  Read this article for more info: http://www.latimes.com/business/realestate/la-fi-rentwatch-20150301-story.html


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