For many tenants the subject of the security deposit is somewhat of a touchy subject. Most renters assume they should receive their security deposit back in its entirety as long as there is no significant damage done to the property. However, this is rarely true as there are a number of factors which contribute to whether or not the security deposit or a portion of the deposit will be returned to the tenant when they vacate the premises.
1 – Did You Do Any Major Damage?
Certainly doing major damage to the property such as putting holes in the walls, breaking fixtures or tearing up the flooring may warrant the security deposit being kept but even in these cases the leasing agent must justify these costs. In other words the leasing agent cannot use one damaged item to justify keeping the whole security deposit. Rather the leasing agent is obliged to determine a cost to repair the item. If this estimate is large enough to justify not returning the security deposit the renter should be informed of the estimated cost of repairing the property.
2 – Is Your Property Clean Enough?
All properties should be cleaned thoroughly before the tenant vacates the property. This should include extensive cleaning of all offices, reception, warehouse space, showrooms, bathrooms and any common areas. A cleaning should also include cleaning of all of the fixtures in the property including window coverings. Blinds can be rather difficult to clean and many leasing agents charge approximately $10 per blind if they deem there is a need to clean these items. This can add up rather quickly if there are a number of windows in the property.
Many leasing agents also perform a number of standard cleaning functions when any tenant vacates the property. This may include items such as cleaning out any employee lounge appliances (ex: refrigerator and microwave), shampooing the carpet, repainting the walls and in some cases restoring the property to its condition prior to any tenant improvements. When these items are required, there is typically a fee associated with each item. In many cases, adding up these required fees results in a number which is likely already approaching the sum of the security deposit. Additionally, leasing agents often only allow for one hour of cleaning services to prepare a property for the next tenant. This is rarely enough time to complete the work and therefore tenants wind up being charged an additional fee at an hourly rate.
3 – Have You Read Your Contract Documents?
Tenants who want to have the greatest chance of having a large portion of their security deposit refunded to them should be very familiar with their Lease documents. This is important while occupying the property as well as while getting ready to vacate it. It is important to be familiar with the contract terms while occupying the property because it can prevent the tenant from making decorating choices or tenant improvements which are explicitly prohibited by the lease agreement. These types of decisions can be costly in the long run because they may result in the tenant being assessed for perceived damages by the leasing agent.
Tenants should also carefully review the lease agreement documents as they are preparing to vacate the property. This is important because it may help the tenant to clean and make repairs to the property in accordance with the guidelines set forth by the leasing agent. Doing this will make it much more likely the renter will not be assessed exorbitant fees at the conclusion of the lease term.