Tips for Getting Back Your Rental Deposit

Landlords holding thousands of dollars in security deposits

Walter Sharp has a stack of cardboard boxes in his living room. Walter, his wife and three sons, will be moving our of their Rancho Peñasquitos home at the end of the month and they would like to get their security deposit back.

"It's crucial," said Sharp, "that deposit is most likely going to be the downpayment deposit on the next place we're moving to."

To make sure he gets that deposit, Walt has been in touch with his landlord and is patching holes around the house. He says his family will give it a deep clean before they move out.

San Diego attorney Christian Curry with Tenants Legal Center said about one in every three phone calls to his office concerns security deposits. He said there are over a million tenants in San Diego and that average rents are over $2,000.

Curry said the key to getting your deposit back is communication. Before you move out, ask for a walk-through with your landlord or property manager to understand their expectations. Ask for any requests in writing.  

"The absolute best thing you can do is just take a ton of pictures before you move out," said Curry. 

When you take pictures you have proof of the work you did and the condition of the rental when you left.

Curry said it is very important to leave the property clean, that could mean using a cleaning service to have a record of the work that was done.  But Curry says you may not be able to leave the property exactly as you found it.

"Wear and tear is what the landlord is responsible for," said Curry.

Walter Sharp said he has been a good renter and intends to get his full refund.

"You are just throwing money away if you don't do everything you can to get that deposit back," said Sharp.

The Tenants Legal Center has a page on its website explaining the law and what you need to know to get your money back.

A landlord has 21 days after you move out to return your deposit.

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