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When you decide to rent a home or apartment, you will most likely need to put down a security deposit. This chunk of money that you hand over on the first day of your lease is essentially ‘on hold’ until you move out. However, there are many reasons why you may not get every penny back. 

Damage from hanging artwork, broken doors or windows, permanent stains on carpets and scratches on hardwood floors are just a few examples of why a tenant may not reclaim the full amount. Basically, any damage caused by a tenant that is not fixed will be charged against them at the end of the lease. Here are five tips for renters to guarantee the return of their full security deposit:

1. Read Your Lease 
Though you may have read through your lease agreement thoroughly when you first signed it, be sure to refer back to it as soon as you decide you are moving out. Read through the entire lease, including any fine print, to see exactly what you are responsible for, as well as any other rules to stay in good standing with your landlord. In general, the guidelines should be straightforward, but others may require you to paint spots, fill nail holes or even have carpeting and appliances professionally cleaned.

2. Document Everything
When first moving into your new rental, take pictures or video of the entire unit. Include wide shots of walls and floors, as well as details of scratches, holes or other imperfections that already existed prior to you signing your lease. Though natural wear and tear are often overlooked or ignored, some landlords will hold a deposit for something you may not consider to be damage or excessive wear and tear. Any updates or enhancements made, with permission from the landlord, should also be documented. For example, if you are approved to change a faucet, take photos before and after, as well as keeping any and all receipts of work done.

3. Take Precautions
Because you do not own this property, you want to be sure that you create the least amount of damage as possible. From hanging artwork with nails to pushing your couch across a hardwood floor, there are many alternatives and ways to navigate living and decorating a rental. Instead of putting a hole in the wall, hang your artwork using hooks with adhesive backing. For heavy furniture, place felt underneath the feet to avoid any potential scratches. Tricks like these will help in maintaining the condition of your rental.

4. Make Necessary Repairs
If a pipe bursts or an appliance breaks down, the landlord will more often than not handle the repairs and payments. However, for smaller repairs and maintenance tasks, tenants should take responsibility. For example, if a lightbulb in the kitchen or on the front porch burns out, be sure to change it before moving out. If you decide to use nails in the walls for decorative purposes, fill the holes and paint over each spot. The landlord will most likely appreciate the small repairs and will be less likely to withhold a deposit.

5. Clean Thoroughly 
Lastly, before you give back the keys, give the place a deep clean. Dust, vacuum, disinfect and mop the entire unit. Not only does this show respect for the property, but it also allows for a quicker turnaround if another tenant is planning to move in. Be sure to get in between, under and behind appliances, as well as the smaller details, such as light switches and door frames. Even hire a professional cleaning company to come in and do the work for you. Again, check your lease. If the landlord requires a deep cleaning upon departure, you may qualify for reimbursement.