You don’t have to follow Judge Judy to know that the most common reason apartment managers and residents face off in small claims court is because of a disagreement over the return of the resident's security deposit.
Keep on reading if you want to learn more about how to avoid any issues regarding your security deposit.
If you haven’t yet signed a lease on a Chico apartment, make sure you read the fine print. A security deposit is an extra charge that provides financial security to the apartment complex in case the resident breaks or violates the terms of the lease agreement. It can be used to pay for cleaning or repairing damages to a property, replacing keys or paying back rent.
An apartment manager must be fair and reasonable in withholding all or part of a security deposit; he or she cannot force a resident to make repairs or upgrades to conditions that existed before the resident moved in. Nor can he or she charge the resident for fixes that result from “ordinary and reasonable wear and tear."
Still, disputes erupt. You can take proactive steps now, before you move into your Chico apartment, that should keep you out of court – and out of the path of a Judge Judy type.
Request A Walk-Through
Before you move in, ask the apartment manager for a walk-through if he or she doesn’t offer one. Be sure to print and take an inventory form that clearly designates the “condition upon arrival” of various elements of the apartment, room by room. Sign and date this inventory form jointly, and keep a copy of the form in a safe place, along with your lease agreement.
As an extra precaution, take photographs of every room. It always helps to have a visual record to bolster a paper record.
Give The Apartment Manager Notice Of Your Intent To Move Out
Check your rental agreement; you are probably required to give your apartment manager 30 days’ notice of your intent to move out if you're renting a Chico apartment month by month.
This notice must be done in writing, as opposed to making a phone call or giving verbal notice at the rental office. It may sound silly, but it’s in your best interest to clarify exactly what “in writing” means to your manager. He or she also might balk at an email notice, preferring a formal letter instead. With your hard-earned money at stake, you have every motivation to be as specific as possible. Make sure they state these terms in your lease agreement for added protection.
Make Any Changes According To The Rules You Agreed To
Some apartments expressly prohibit residents from making any changes to a Chico apartment, even if they improve its appearance or function and even if a resident offers to undertake them at his or her own expense. Other apartments simply ask that residents seek permission first. These apartments may or may not require that the unit be restored to its original condition before a resident moves out.
It would be a mistake to make assumptions, so ensure that you follow the terms of the lease agreement you signed. Failing to do so could cost you even more than your security deposit.
Request A Final Walk-Through
After you move out, schedule another walk-through, being sure to bring the inventory form with you. This is when you should come to terms on the other column on the form: “condition upon departure.”
Although it may be more convenient for you to schedule this walk-through before you leave your Chico apartment, consider the possibility of damage occurring on moving day; if your manager finds that the movers have left dents in the walls or greasy stains on the carpet, you could end up in front of a Judge Judy type after all. And that’s precisely what being proactive about securing your security deposit is meant to avoid.