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What is a Security Deposit, and How to Make Sure You Receive Your Full Deposit Refund?

security deposit baltimoreAs a renter, paying a security deposit prior to move in, is something you should expect and prepare for. Though security deposit amounts may vary, depending on the rent amount, credit check, income and rental verification, as well as any move in specials your landlord may be running, you can anticipate your new landlord to require a security deposit in addition to the 1st month’s rent. In this blog post, we are going to touch base on exactly what a security deposit is, and what it’s used for, as well as go over the steps you can take, to ensure you receive all, or at least most of your deposit back at move out.

First things first, let’s go over what a security deposit is, and why you’re being asked to pay one. A security deposit is a sum of money that a tenant pays to their landlord prior to moving into a rental property. Typically, the security deposit amount is equivalent to one or two months of rent. In the state of Maryland, the maximum deposit amount a landlord can ask for is two months of rent. A security deposit can be used for one of two things; financial protection as well as property protection. If you vacate the property, owing a balance for rent and/or utilities, your security deposit will be applied to any balance owed. If there are damages to the property at move out, such as carpet stains, broken appliances, or numerous marks on walls, your security deposit will be applied to the costs of those repairs.

Once your lease has come to an end, and you have decided to vacate the property you are renting, chances are, you’re going to want your security deposit to be returned to you in full. In order for that to happen, there are certain steps you will want to take to ensure you receive your full deposit, or at least most of it. Some of these steps should be taken prior to move in, while others will take place during your tenancy, and leading up to your vacate date. Continue reading to find out what steps Bay Property Management Group recommends taking for your maximum deposit refund.

Step One:

Read your entire lease agreement: While this may sound like a pretty obvious thing, sometimes we’re all guilty of not reading important documents in full. We skim through agreements, and only focus on the sections that asks for our initial or signature. However, a lot of important information is in that lease agreement, and you’ll want to be familiar with all of it. Your rental lease agreement is where you will find information pertaining to what, if any changes can be made at the property; such as painting or hanging items on the walls. Knowing what changes are and are not allowed to be made to the property, will help to ensure you’re not doing anything that would result in a charge at move out.

Step Two:

Ask questions: When reading your rental lease agreement, do not be afraid to ask questions, if you’re unsure of a certain statement or section within your lease. It is extremely important to make sure you fully understand and are clear of the terms of your rental lease agreement. Bay Property Management Group has a team of qualified leasing agents, who are here to  help answer any questions you have during your leasing process!

Step Three:

Ask what charges can be deducted from your deposit at move out: Prior to moving in, ask your landlord or leasing agent what potential charges can be deducted from your security deposit when you vacate the property. Having a clear understanding of what items may be deducted from your deposit, will allow you to plan ahead and avoid any potential damages during your tenancy. At Bay Property Management Group, we provide all of our tenants with a list of standard move out charges prior to moving in. This is great for rental tenants to refer to when preparing to vacate. Always ask if information like this is available to you.

Step Four:

Provide a move in report and take photos: Every property and landlord is different. What is considered “rent ready” to one landlord, may be completely different to another. As a new rental tenant, one of the very first things you will want to do is document the condition of your property at move in. Walk through each and every room, as well as the front and rear exterior, and document your findings. In addition to a written report, take tons of photos as well. Make sure you report all findings to your landlord, as well as keep copies of your report and photos for yourself. Bay Property Management Group, provides our tenants with a move in report on move in day. The move in report is always referred to, when completing the refund of a security deposit. This is a great way to ensure you’re not held responsible for damages that may have been present when you moved in.

Step Five:

Provide your forwarding address: In the state of Maryland, a landlord is to send deposit refunds, and all information pertaining to a security deposit to the last known address on file. When providing your notice to vacate, you should provide your landlord with your forwarding address at that time. If you are unsure of your forwarding address, just make sure you provide it to your landlord as soon as possible. Otherwise all deposit information will be sent to the property you are vacating from, which can result in a delayed deposit refund.

Step Six:

Make sure all rent and utilities are paid prior to vacating: It is important to check your rental tenant account, and make sure all rent, including utilities are paid in full prior to vacating the property. Keep in mind, any balance owed will be deducted from your security deposit. Depending on your deposit amount, this can lead to you owing a balance to your landlord. Owing a balance at move out can lead to having your account filed in collections, if left unpaid. The best way to avoid this, is to ensure all money owed is paid in full, leaving no balance due.

Step Seven:

Ask to be present during the move out inspection: In the state of Maryland, landlords are required to notify every tenant the date and time a move out inspection is scheduled to take place. As a rental tenant, you have the right to be present during the inspection, though you do not have to be. While most inspections are completed by maintenance personnel, who are not able to provide information with regards to your deposit refund, it is a good idea to be present during the inspection, so that you can see exactly what is being documented.

While sometimes damages to a property are inevitable, following the steps above will not only show your landlord that you are a rental tenant who cares about their property, this will also ensure you are getting the maximum deposit refund at move out. Don’t throw your money away to avoidable charges! Gather information, ask questions, and prepare accordingly. After all, moving is expensive, and receiving that security deposit refund will help with those costs!