Many Americans look forward to owning their own homes, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But both rent to own and traditional rental arrangements offer some significant upsides, too. Problem with the foundation or roof? Your landlord will take care of it. Figure out you don’t like something about a house or neighborhood? You can look for a new one. Decide to take a job across the country? You can leave unencumbered by a huge investment. Have a baby and need more space? You can upgrade without a fuss.
In fact, the biggest thing renters need to worry about when ending tenancies is simply leaving rental homes in good enough condition that they’ll get their security deposits back. And as long as you take the following steps to ensure your landlord gives you your due, that really shouldn’t be too hard:
- Document All Existing Problems
When you first move in, take notes and photos regarding any existing problems. That means every stain on the carpet and every ding in the wall. Emailing this list to yourself and your landlord is a great idea, since it will both keep it handy and attach a date to it.
- Clean or Hire a Cleaning Service
This may seem fairly obvious, but be sure to clean before you move out. If the place is too dirty for you to get it clean by yourself, it may be worth hiring a cleaning service. Your landlord would likely do the same thing and deduct the cost from your deposit; by hiring the service yourself, you can control the cost a bit more.
- Ask How You’ll Get Your Deposit Back
When you’re preparing to move out, give your landlord a polite reminder about your security deposit. Something along the lines of “It’s been great living here! How will you be getting my security deposit back to me, and when should I expect to see it?” works well because it doesn’t leave any room for the deposit to get “forgotten,” and yet doesn’t make the move-out process unnecessarily hostile.
- Know Your Legal Rights
If your landlord tries to withhold your deposit, you should know where the laws back you up. For example, deposits for rental homes can only be used to repair damage that goes beyond normal wear and tear. And even if you have ruined something, you may not be responsible for the whole replacement cost unless the item was new to start with. Carpet, for example, has a lifespan of about seven years. So if you ruined a carpet but it was installed five years ago, you shouldn’t have to bear the whole brunt of re-carpeting.
Do you have any recommendations on keeping rental homes in good shape — or any tips on finding a great home for rent, from where to find houses for rent online to what questions to ask prospective landlords? Join the discussion in the comments.