By the time renters try to get their deposit money back, many landlords have already spent it.
"So once you give it to the landlord, it become the landlord's money," said tenant legal expert Steven Kellman. "When you're asking for your money back, your money is gone, so you're asking for their money."
That's why some landlords make it so difficult to get your deposit back. In many cases, if you're a college student, you can forget it.
"I think a lot of landlords try to take advantage of younger people who are more intimidated and are afraid of the system," said Kellman.
The San Diego attorney said renters need to push to get their money back.
"I know friends who just moved into a house, didn't write anything down and moved out, and they got half or three-quarters of their deposit taken," said college junior Ty Hines of San Diego.
So how can you get your money back? Here are tips from Steven Kellman with the Tenants Legal Center:
Keep Deposit Documents: Make sure you have proof of your deposit, including a receipt and a canceled check
- Have a Move-Out Inspection Prior to Leaving: Find out what the landlord expects you to do to get your full deposit back
- Take Photos: Take pictures before you move in and when you move out. You may need proof of the condition of the house or apartment. Include a current newspaper in one of the photos to prove the date
- Hire a Cleaning Service: You may do a perfectly good job of cleaning your rental. but that may not be good enough. Hire a cleaning service so you have written proof the house or apartment was clean when you left it
- Proof of Repairs: Make sure any repairs are done by professional standards; keep pictures and paperwork
- Take a Final Walkthrough: When you give the keys back to the landlord, ask for a receipt. Make sure the landlord signs off on repairs
Don't give up on getting your deposit back. Sometimes, landlords will claim damage and try to keep your money. They must prove what they find and keep repair receipts. They can not use the deposit money for property improvements or renovations.