How to Hold on to your Security Deposit

Whether you’re dealing with a landlord or property management that the landlord’s hired, a big concern when renting a house or apartment is retaining that precious security deposit. Here are some tips on making sure you get it back in full when you move out.

When You Move In

  • Read your lease carefully. Make sure you understand everything that it says, and make sure that you and the landlord come to an agreement on what it says.
  • If the landlord doesn’t give you a move-in checklist, you can find one at Once you have that, note any preexisting damage. This can take a while, so grab some friends to help you (and offer the standard beer and pizza payment for moving assistance).
  • These days, everyone’s got a camera on their phones. Now’s a great time to use it for something besides a selfie (and by all means, take a selfie in your new place once you’re moved in). Photograph every single blemish you find on every wall, windowsill, tile, etc, and then send copies to the landlord or property manager.

While You Live There

    • It’s important to abide by the policies of the lease, such as painting, having pets and lease termination. If you receive verbal permission to do anything, get it in writing.
    • Keep it clean, especially if you have pets. Although leaving it untidy is not a reason for forfeiture of your security deposit, you don’t want to give your landlord any ammo.

When You Leave

      • Take more pictures, have the landlord do a walk-through with you, and have them sign an agreement that you have left the apartment in fair condition.
      • If you paid a non-refundable cleaning deposit, then leave it in tidy shape. If you didn’t, then clean like you’ve never cleaned before. Even get the nasty oven.
      • Be wary of even the really nice landlords, and don’t let anything slide. Nice landlords can change their tune when money’s involved.

Know your rights.

There are forms you can use if your landlord’s suddenly not so friendly. You can request your security deposit in writing and send it certified mail. In the state of Arizona, the landlord-tenant act requires a landlord to respond within 14 business days by either returning your full deposit, or part of it with a written list of deductions. For more information on your rights, check out