One of the many fees associated with renting a new apartment is the security deposit. It’s an amount of money a landlord will collect from renters before they move in, and it’s commonly used to cover damage to the property, key replacement, and any late or unpaid rent. It’s usually the equivalent to one month’s rent, but in some cases can be substantially more.
Most tenants can expect to get back some or all of their security deposit when they move out—depending, of course, on the condition they leave the place in. However, recouping your security deposit is not always a given. In fact, according to a Rent.com survey of 1,000 U.S. renters, 26% of renters lost their security deposit.
So what keeps people from reclaiming that precious cash they put down?
Every situation—and landlord—is different, but if you commit one of the seven following transgressions, there’s a really good chance you won’t be getting your full security deposit back.
1. Moving out late
Your move-out date determines when the apartment can be fixed up for the next tenant, since landlords typically paint, replace carpets, and make repairs when the unit is empty. But if you move out late, you’ll delay the whole process—and prevent your landlord from being able to allow the new tenant to move in and start paying rent. In such a case, landlords might decide to recoup their losses by keeping part or all of a tenant’s security deposit.
However, “late” can have other meanings, according to Bruce Ailion, an Atlanta, GA-based realtor and attorney: not paying your last month’s rent on time, not returning your keys on time, and not allowing the transfer of utilities on time. All of these factors can hurt your chances of ever seeing your security deposit again.
2. Moving out early
Landlords don’t like surprises, and moving out before your lease is up is a bad surprise. Whether you’re moving by choice or by force (i.e., if you get evicted), when you leave early, the landlord may not have another tenant lined up to move into your unit. So, an unoccupied room could cost the landlord, who will be likely…