Renters' Rights: Getting Back Your Deposit

Consumer Bob gives you tips so your landlord hands over the money

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    NEWSLETTERS

    NBC 7's Consumer Bob shares some tips on how renters can get more of their deposit back when it's time to move out.

    When Eric Babajanian's landlord kept his security deposit, he was not happy.

    "We have to repaint your whole apartment and we have to replace your carpet," said Babajanian, "I'm like, there's nothing wrong." 

    In fact Eric had cleaned his apartment himself and thought everything looked fine.  But his landlord said it wasn't enough.

    "You know a hundred dollars here and there means half a month's food for me," said Babajanian.

    But now Eric doesn't take any chances.  He makes sure when he moves in to make a detailed list of the condition of the apartment and takes lots of pictures.

     Then when he moves out, he asks for a "Pre-Move Out Inspection" to see what his landlord wants fixed, and then Eric does the work.

    "I've been very, very thorough when it comes to speaking with landlords," said Babajanian, and since then, he has received all of his deposit money.

    Steven Kellman is the founder of the Tenants Legal Center in San Diego. 

    He said landlords are slow to hand over your money because in most cases, they have already spent it. 

    But landlords are not able to charge you for damages caused during "normal use." That's why it is important to document the home or apartment before you move in.

    "Because if things wear out while you are there, you don't want the landlord to blame you," said Kellman.

    By holding a Pre-Move Out Inspection, or initial inspection as it's called in the law, you are able to identify things that need to be repaired. 

    It gives the tenant the chance to avoid security deposit deductions by making  the repair yourself.

    That could include hiring your own cleaning company, carpet cleaner, filling holes in the wall or even replacing a toilet seat -- things you could probably do cheaper on your own.

    But how clean does your home or apartment have to be when you leave?

    "Under the law you have to leave it as clean as you found it," said Kellman, "That is why you document it when you move in as to the level of cleanliness."

    Also, under state law, a landlord must document what they did with your security money.  Deductions need to be in writing with receipts for anything over $125.

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