Tips to get­ting your rental de­posit back

Lesotho Times - - Property -

TEN­ANTS usu­ally pay any­where be­tween one and three months’ rent as a dam­ages de­posit, but are of­ten un­sure what they need to do to get it back when their lease ends.

“Al­though de­posits are of­ten used to cover rental de­faults or un­paid util­ity bills, their pri­mary pur­pose is to pro­tect land­lords against dam­age to the prop­erty,” says An­drew Schae­fer, MD of na­tional prop­erty man­age­ment com­pany Trafal­gar.

“Ten­ants need to be aware of this, and since they may have quite a large sum of money at stake, they also need to know how to avoid be­ing pe­nalised for dam­age that may have been done by oth­ers, or may just be due to wear-and-tear, which is the land­lord’s own re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

Most im­por­tantly, he says they will need a clear vis­ual record of what the prop­erty looked like be­fore they moved in, and the best way to do this is to in­spect the prop­erty to­gether with the land­lord or agent when it is still empty and take their own time and date stamped pho­tos or video of ev­ery room, and es­pe­cially of any ex­ist­ing dam­age that they can see.

“If you are rent­ing through a pro­fes­sional let­ting com­pany, the agent will prob­a­bly be tak­ing pho­tos dur­ing this in-go­ing in­spec­tion any­way, but you should in­sist that yours are also at­tached to the lease agree­ment and signed by the land­lord, so that all par­ties are on the same page when it comes to the movein con­di­tion of the prop­erty,” says Schae­fer.

“This will re­ally help to avoid dis­putes at the end of the lease, when a sim­i­lar set of pho­tos or videos taken as you move out will quickly re­veal whether the prop­erty is still very much in the same con­di­tion, or whether there has been any se­ri­ous dam­age done that you need to pay for.”

“There is, of course, still some po­ten­tial for dis­agree­ment as land­lord and ten­ant may not see eye-to-eye about the dif­fer­ence be­tween dam­age and wear-and-tear, but gen­er­ally speak­ing, land­lords need to ac­cept that car­pets and cur­tains do get worn, doors and floors do get scuffed and paint does fade, and that they can­not hold their ten­ants li­able for that.”

On the other hand, Schae­fer says ten­ants will im­prove their chances of get­ting their de­posit back quickly by tak­ing the ini­tia­tive to steam clean car­pets ahead of the move-out in­spec­tion, for ex­am­ple, or patch­ing any holes in the walls caused by re­mov­ing art­work or a wall-mounted TV, and re­paint­ing those walls in the orig­i­nal colour.

Other things that ten­ants can do to en­sure a smooth de­par­ture with their de­posit in­tact in­clude giv­ing no­tice in plenty of time and in writ­ing, so that the land­lord is aware as soon as pos­si­ble of their in­ten­tion to leave and has the best chance of find­ing a new ten­ant be­fore they go

“A va­cant unit is one that is cost­ing the land­lord money, and the more you can re­duce the pos­si­bil­ity of va­cancy, the bet­ter,” he says

In ad­di­tion, Schae­fer says ten­ants should try to be ac­com­mo­dat­ing when the land­lord or agent wants to show the unit to po­ten­tial new ten­ants.

“Again, the eas­ier you make it for the unit to be re-let, the less re­sis­tant your land­lord is likely to feel about re­turn­ing your de­posit, and the more likely you are to get a good rental ref­er­ence.”

As to the tim­ing of any de­posit re­fund, Schae­fer says the law pro­vides that when a joint out­go­ing in­spec­tion has taken place and there is no amount ow­ing to the land­lord for either dam­ages or ar­rears, the full de­posit must be re­funded within seven days.

If a joint in­spec­tion has taken place and there is an amount ow­ing to the land­lord, the land­lord has 14 days to ob­tain quotes and es­tab­lish what it would cost to re­pair any dam­ages, and re­fund the bal­ance of the de­posit to the ten­ant.

“It is also im­por­tant for ten­ants to be aware that if they refuse to at­tend a joint in­spec­tion, they can be held li­able for any and all dam­ages to the premises, as well as any ar­rears,” says Schae­fer.

“In such cases the land­lord has 21 days to as­sess the dam­ages and to re­fund the bal­ance of the de­posit if ap­pli­ca­ble. But if there is a short­fall, the land­lord may also take le­gal ac­tion to re­cover it and the ten­ant would then also be re­spon­si­ble for those le­gal costs.”

Pay your last month’s rent

Many ten­ants see their se­cu­rity de­posit as their last month’s rent. How­ever, un­less it’s ex­plic­itly stated in your con­tract, that frame of mind can hurt you. If your apart­ment needs clean­ing or has been dam­aged, for ex­am­ple, the land­lord can keep your se­cu­rity de­posit and sue you for the rent that has gone “un­paid.”

Pay your last month’s rent on time and keep a copy of your cheque or re­quest a re­ceipt. Store the copy in a safe place with your exit no­tice. Make small re­pairs

Mak­ing re­pairs be­fore mov­ing out is a bal­anc­ing act. Odds are that your land­lord will charge you more to fix some­thing than it would cost to do it your­self, but don’t overdo it. Only make re­pairs you can do quickly and cheaply. For ex­am­ple, don’t fix any­thing that came bro­ken and don’t im­prove an­other per­son’s prop­erty for the sake of your se­cu­rity de­posit.

Per­form small and easy re­pairs, in­clud­ing the fol­low­ing: 1. Patch Holes. Use putty and some paint to patch up any holes you made hang­ing pic­tures or cur­tains. 2. Paint. If you painted any room in the rent

al, paint it back to its orig­i­nal colour. 3. Re­place Light Bulbs and Bat­ter­ies. Add light bulbs to any burned out fix­tures and check the bat­ter­ies in the smoke de­tec­tor. 4. Make the Stove Look New. If you burned any­thing on the pans be­low the burn­ers, re­place them rather than clean them. Th­ese only cost a few dol­lars at a hard­ware store. 5. Make the Bath­room Shine. Use a bleach pen or white paint to touch up any stains or marks you caused in the sink or bath­tub. Ac­ci­dents hap­pen and you may have caused dam­age that you can’t eas­ily fix your­self. For ex­am­ple, when my very large dog was a very large puppy, she used the side of my closet door as a chew toy one day while I was out. It re­ally wasn’t some­thing sand­ing, paint­ing, or even prayer could fix. Clean, and clean again

By law, you only have to leave your rental “broom clean.” Since broom clean is a highly sub­jec­tive term, it’s best to err on the side of cau­tion and leave your rental “brandspank­ing-new clean.” If pos­si­ble, come back and clean af­ter you move out. This way you’ll be sure to catch dust be­hind the couch and stains in the cab­i­nets.

Do a full, top-to-bot­tom clean­ing job. Start by dust­ing off the ceil­ing fans and don’t stop un­til you’ve mopped all the floors. Pay spe­cial at­ten­tion to the kitchen and the bath­room as they get the dirt­i­est. Don’t for­get the small things like clean­ing in­side ap­pli­ances, dust­ing the blinds, and vac­u­um­ing the clos­ets. Take your stuff with you

If you re­ally want to ir­ri­tate your land­lord, leave some of your un­wanted junk be­hind. More times than not, when I went into a va­cant prop­erty for the first time, I found some of the ten­ant’s stuff. Some­times it was small things like a box of tro­phies in the closet or a bag of Mardi Gras beads in the stor­age shed. Other times, how­ever, I found full bed­room sets or bro­ken ap­pli­ances.

If you leave any­thing be­hind, es­pe­cially some­thing big, the land­lord will have to hire some­one to re­move it, which will come out of your se­cu­rity de­posit. Dou­ble and triple check stor­age ar­eas, clos­ets, draw­ers, and cab­i­nets be­fore you leave for the last time. Re­turn your keys

Many ten­ants for­get this step and it costs them. When you’re fi­nally out of your rental, con­tact your land­lord and set up a time to drop off the keys.

Make sure you give him every­thing you have, in­clud­ing gate and mail­box keys. Oth­er­wise, the land­lord will charge you a re­place­ment fee for ev­ery key you take with you. Fol­low up

Land­lord and ten­ant laws only pro­tect your right to get your se­cu­rity de­posit back if you re­quest it. If you just let it go, you may never see your se­cu­rity de­posit, and the sad truth is that some land­lords get away with just not giv­ing a de­posit back.

If you haven’t heard from your land­lord af­ter 30 days, don’t be shy. Write your land­lord a fol­low-up let­ter re­quest­ing your se­cu­rity de­posit. Keep a copy of the let­ter in your “just in case” box.

If you don’t hear any­thing af­ter a cou­ple more weeks, go to your lo­cal court and file a civil suit. That way, a judge will de­cide how much you’re en­ti­tled to and will make sure you get it. Don’t for­get to bring all your doc­u­men­ta­tion to the court­house.

Many renters strug­gle to come up with an en­tire month’s rent for a se­cu­rity de­posit. While you may for­get the pain of putting that much down by the time you move out, you are still en­ti­tled to your money. If you do your part, keep good records, and fol­low up, you should have no prob­lems get­ting your se­cu­rity de­posit back.

– Prop­erty24/mon­ey­crash­ers.

Land­lord and ten­ant laws only pro­tect your right to get your se­cu­rity de­posit back if you re­quest it.

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