How to Get Your Security Deposit Back


  1. Introduction
  2. Understand Your Lease Agreement
  3. Document the Condition of the Rental
  4. Communicate with Your Landlord
  5. Clean Thoroughly
  6. Repair Damages
  7. Return Keys and Provide a Forwarding Address
  8. Follow Up
  9. FAQs


Getting your security deposit back after moving out of a rental property requires planning, communication, and attention to detail. This guide will walk you through the steps necessary to ensure you receive your full security deposit back.

Understand Your Lease Agreement

  • Read the Lease: Carefully read your lease agreement to understand the terms related to the security deposit.
  • Notice Requirements: Note any requirements for giving notice before moving out, such as the length of notice and how it should be given.
  • Conditions for Return: Understand the conditions under which the deposit will be returned, including cleaning and repairs.

Document the Condition of the Rental

Move-In Inspection

  • Initial Inspection: Conduct a thorough inspection when you first move in.
  • Documentation: Take detailed photos and videos of the property’s condition.
  • Checklist: Use a checklist to note any pre-existing damages or issues and provide a copy to your landlord.

Move-Out Inspection

  • Final Inspection: Conduct a similar inspection before you move out.
  • Comparison: Compare the condition of the property at move-out to the move-in documentation.
  • Attend the Inspection: If possible, attend the final inspection with your landlord to address any concerns on the spot.

Communicate with Your Landlord

  • Notice of Intent to Move Out: Provide written notice of your intent to move out according to the lease terms.
  • Request an Inspection: Ask your landlord for a pre-move-out inspection to identify any potential issues that need addressing.
  • Clarify Expectations: Discuss your landlord’s expectations for cleaning and repairs.

Clean Thoroughly

General Cleaning

  • Deep Clean: Perform a deep clean of the entire property, including floors, walls, and windows.
  • Remove All Belongings: Ensure all personal items are removed from the property.
  • Dispose of Trash: Properly dispose of all trash and unwanted items.

Room-Specific Cleaning

  • Kitchen: Clean appliances, countertops, cabinets, and sinks. Don’t forget the oven, refrigerator, and dishwasher.
  • Bathrooms: Scrub toilets, showers, bathtubs, sinks, and mirrors. Clean grout and remove any mold.
  • Bedrooms and Living Areas: Vacuum carpets, clean floors, dust surfaces, and remove any cobwebs.

Repair Damages

Minor Repairs

  • Fill Holes: Use spackling paste to fill small nail holes and touch up with matching paint.
  • Fix Leaks: Repair any minor leaks in faucets or toilets.
  • Replace Burnt-Out Bulbs: Ensure all light fixtures have working bulbs.

Professional Help

  • Major Repairs: If there are significant damages, consider hiring professionals to make the repairs.
  • Specialized Cleaning: For stubborn stains or deep cleaning (e.g., carpet cleaning), professional services may be necessary.

Return Keys and Provide a Forwarding Address

  • Return All Keys: Return all keys, garage remotes, and any other access devices to your landlord.
  • Forwarding Address: Provide your landlord with a forwarding address for the return of your security deposit and any future correspondence.

Follow Up

  • Written Confirmation: Request written confirmation from your landlord acknowledging the return of the property and keys.
  • Deposit Timeline: Know your state’s laws regarding the timeline for the return of security deposits, usually between 14 to 30 days.
  • Itemized Deductions: If any deductions are made, request an itemized list of charges.


How long does the landlord have to return my security deposit?

Most states require landlords to return the security deposit within 14 to 30 days after the tenant moves out. Check your local laws for specific timelines.

What if my landlord refuses to return my security deposit?

If your landlord refuses to return your deposit without valid reasons, you can send a formal demand letter. If that fails, consider small claims court to recover your deposit.

Can the landlord deduct for normal wear and tear?

No, landlords cannot deduct for normal wear and tear, which includes minor marks on walls, slight carpet wear, and other signs of normal use.

What constitutes damage versus normal wear and tear?

Damage includes things like large holes in walls, broken fixtures, or excessive dirt requiring professional cleaning. Normal wear and tear are minor scuffs and gradual deterioration from everyday use.

What if I lost my copy of the move-in inspection report?

Request a copy from your landlord. If they don’t have one, rely on your photos and any communication or documentation you have.

By following these steps and maintaining good communication with your landlord, you can increase your chances of receiving your full security deposit back. Proper planning and attention to detail are key to a smooth move-out process.

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