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How To Get Your Apartment Security Deposit Back

No question: Moving is stressful—and expensive. But getting your security deposit back can make the process more bearable.

One key to achieving that goal: Proper care and maintenance while living in the space, says Beth Allen, a contractor and DIY expert in Pennsylvania. “Cleanliness is essential, starting with a deep spring cleaning every year,” she says. “If you’re cleaning and maintaining a home regularly, you’re not going to have as much wear and tear or damage.”

Here are Allen’s tips on what you can do while living there—and when you move out—to increase your odds of netting a full security deposit refund.

Before You Move In

  • Review your lease before signing so you understand what modifications are allowed, which ones require permission, and how to report issues to your landlord.
  • Do a walk-through before moving in, preferably with your landlord. Keep a checklist and record the condition of the apartment with notes and photos.

While You’re Living There

In General

  • If something breaks in the apartment, report it immediately to your landlord, in writing, so it can be fixed and there will be a paper trail when you move out.
  • Learn the location of the emergency gas shut-off valve, the circuit breaker box and the water supply line—and how to turn them all off. “In an emergency, this will prevent more damage and could keep your stuff safe,” Allen says.
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  • Maintain and clean the shower tile and grout with a bleach-based product or mold and mildew remover. “You’ll lose money if someone has to strip off the caulk or re-do grout because you’re not cleaning the shower regularly,” Allen says.
  • If you have a vent fan, wipe it clean or vacuum it from time to time to keep it from clogging with dust.
  • Regularly check underneath sinks for mold, mildew and leaks. Report problems to your landlord immediately.


  • Two or three times a year, remove the mesh filter in the stove’s range hood and soak it in the sink with baking soda and dish soap.
  • If you have a dishwasher, help keep it clean with a product that removes hard water and mineral deposits.
  • Once a year, take the bottom grill off the front of the refrigerator and clean it; vacuum underneath the machine to help it function better.
  • Tighten loose handles and hinges on cabinets.

Living Room

  • If you have carpet, spot treat it immediately when it gets stained. Steam clean carpets once a year using hot water. Don’t use carpet shampoo; it leaves behind residue that can actually attract more dirt.

Before You Move Out

  • Fix any damages not related to normal wear and tear, and thoroughly clean your place.
  • Remove all nails and screws from walls and ceilings and putty over them. “Walls are huge—they’re the No. 1 thing landlords have to deal with,” Allen says. (Hanging strips can help you avoid making holes in the first place.)
  • Consider replacing the toilet seat.
  • Scrub the oven and stove. Remove the drip pans, burners and shelves to remove grease spattering, crumbs and baked-on mess.
  • Remove shelves and drawers from the refrigerator to clean them, and scrub away spills or crumbs inside the refrigerator.
  • Wipe down light switches, doors and walls to remove any dirt or smudges, especially in high-traffic areas.
  • Vacuum, mop and dust all rooms and living areas.
  • Remove cabinet and drawer liners you may have inserted.
  • If possible, do a walk-through with your landlord a few days before the end of your lease. Keep a checklist of the condition of the apartment, and document it with notes and photos.

Moving can be a lot of work; keeping your stuff protected shouldn’t be. Get a fast, free quote for renters insurance through the GEICO Insurance Agency and worry about one less thing. Already have a policy? Click here to update your address when you move.

Read more: Save Big On Your Next Move

By Maridel Reyes

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