You may think that the key to keeping your security deposit is as simple as making sure the apartment is clean before you move out, but it takes a few actions throughout the process of renting an apartment to ensure that you receive all of your money back.

The most effective step to ensure that you receive your security deposit in full is to read and understand your lease agreement. The lease agreement outlines what you can and cannot do while staying in the apartment. Disregarding any of the stipulations of the agreement outlined by your landlord allows them to withhold your security deposit, so be sure to read it thoroughly and ask your landlord questions before signing anything.

Before you move in: 

1. Take pictures of any existing damage to the apartment: This step may seem like a hassle as you’re probably ready to begin moving your stuff in, but it’s an extremely important step. Before moving anything in, do a thorough walk through of the apartment and take time-stamped pictures of any damage you find. This will protect you from your landlord claiming that you damaged the apartment when you did not.

2. Notify your landlord of any necessary repairs: If there is any damage in the apartment that requires immediate repair take a picture and notify your landlord. The best way to do this is with an email or letter, if possible. Any requests made to your landlord should leave a paper trail to protect you in the future should you need to defend yourself in court or fight for your rights as a tenant.

While you’re leasing: 

1. Keep your apartment clean throughout the term of your lease: Keeping your apartment clean throughout your leasing period will save you the pain of cleaning a year’s worth of grime on move out day. Regular cleaning will also ensure that the apartment stays in good shape and will allow you to keep an eye on any necessary repairs to prepare for before leaving the apartment.

2. Follow any restrictions outlined in the lease (no smoking, no pets, no painting, etc.): Even though it may seem like a hassle to go outside to smoke or perhaps keep a secret pet, it’s not worth the risk of losing at least a portion of your security deposit. The landlord’s stipulations may seem silly, but it’s their property and they have a right to outline what you can do on the property while you’re renting.

On move-out day: 

1. Clean everything before leaving and take pictures of any remaining damage: The first part of this step is another no-brainer–obviously don’t leave the apartment a complete pig sty and expect to still receive your security deposit. As annoying as it is to clean a place that you will no longer be living in, it’s essential that you do so to avoid any cleaning fees being taken out of your security deposit. In addition, make sure to take pictures of any pre-existing damage in the apartment to show that it’s in the same state as when you first moved in.  If a crooked landlord sees that you have proof against their claims, then they will be less likely to attempt to keep your security deposit.

2. If you’re responsible for any damage, repair it before leaving: Leaving the apartment in the condition it was in when you moved in and having proof  that apartment is in perfect condition is the general goal when you’re trying to get your security deposit returned in full. Now, if your two crazy cats ripped some of your blinds while trying to get to the window sill, that is obviously not the condition that you left the apartment in. It’s important to own up to any damages that you caused and either allow your landlord to fix them using some of the money from your security deposit or fixing them yourself. It’s your decision if you want to allow your landlord to fix any damages, but if you can confidently fix something yourself it will generally be less expensive than if you allow your landlord to do it with your money.

Those are some simple steps that you can take to make sure that you get your security deposit back in full. Do you have any tips on keeping your security deposit that we missed? Be sure to share them in the comments section!