The information below is accurate to the authors’ knowledge at the time it was written. This is general information and is not a substitute for legal advice.
Moving out of your rental unit can be a hectic time, but there are several steps you should take during the move-out process to protect your rights.
Provide your landlord with a mailing address in writing so that they know where to send your security deposit. Keep a copy of the correspondence for your records. Note: the address does not have to be where you live. It could be the address of a friend, family member, etc.
Clean your rental unit thoroughly.
Complete a move-out checklist, documenting the condition of the rental unit at the end of the lease. Give a copy of the checklist to your landlord and keep a copy for your records.
Take pictures and video of the unit and include a date stamp. One continuous video is better than multiple short videos.
Request a walk-through with your landlord. Be sure to attend the walk-through and record it.
Return the keys to the landlord.
Your landlord has a right to keep your entire security deposit if you fail to give them a mailing address within a year of the end of the lease.
If you give your landlord a mailing address, your landlord must return the security deposit within 30 days of the end of the lease.
Your landlord can deduct money from your security deposit for the following reasons:
Unpaid rent and fees;
Cleaning and repairs to restore the rental unit to its move-in condition, but not for ordinary wear and tear; and
Expenses related to a tenant staying past the end of the lease term.
If your landlord deducts money from your security deposit, your landlord must list the reasons for the deductions and the cost of each.
If your landlord fails to return your security deposit or deduction list within 30 days of the end of the lease, they forfeit their right to the deposit. However, your landlord can sue you separately for unpaid rent, cleaning, repairs, etc.
In security deposit disputes, the landlord must prove the reasons for withholding the deposit. When a landlord knowingly makes an illegal deduction, a judge may punish them by making them pay you up to two month’s rent in punitive damages.