When you sign an apartment lease, a part of the rental agreement probably included paying a security deposit in addition to monthly rent. The purpose of the security deposit is to cover damage and expenses that the landlord may incur from your use of the apartment or your sudden vacating of it. If you want to avoid getting charged when moving out of an apartment, follow instructions for giving notice of intent to vacate and then clean with gusto to make the apartment look spiffy before you leave.
Read your lease carefully to make sure you're complying with vacating terms. If your lease is ending, the lease may stipulate that you need to notify your landlord of your intent to not renew by a specific date. If you're vacating before the end of the lease, you'll need to communicate directly with the landlord about your plans to vacate. The landlord may have grounds to withhold all or part of your deposit to recover expenses and lost revenue from your move in this situation. Write the landlord a letter that explains your plans to vacate the apartment in detail and send it to the landlord within the time frame specified in the lease. Include your new address in the letter so your landlord knows where to send your deposit refund.
Get a moving-out checklist from the landlord before you vacate the premises. This should be a written checklist that spells out exactly what the landlord expects you do to before leaving, including cleaning, painting and repairing walls, appliances and floors.
Move every item that belongs to you out of the apartment. Empty every cupboard, drawer and closet. Many landlords will charge tenants a fee if it’s necessary to move items and furniture out of a vacated apartment.
Clean the kitchen from top to bottom, including cabinets, counters, sinks, floors and appliances. It’s especially important to get the stovetop and oven spic and span, removing every spatter of grease and food debris. Similarly, clean out the refrigerator and freezer to make them spotless. If the freezer needs defrosting, perform this maintenance too.
Clean the bathrooms from top to bottom, including sinks, counters, floors, mirrors, tub and toilet. Make the toilet gleam and scrub out the tub and shower to remove every trace of soap scum or mildew. If the shower curtain was one you purchased, remove it.
Check the walls for damage and make any minor repairs. If you see tiny cracks or holes in the walls, fill them with spackling paste. Repaint over the spackled areas to match the walls – it shouldn’t be hard to match because most apartments have white walls. If you painted any walls after getting the landlord’s permission, you’ll have to paint them the original color again before you move out.
Vacuum the carpets thoroughly. While you vacuum, look for any stains or damage. If you find stains that you created, use a carpet stain remover to scrub out the stains. If the entire carpet seems soiled, rent a carpet cleaner.
Sweep hard-surface floors to remove dust and debris. Damp-mop tile and vinyl floors.
Clean the windows with window cleaner. If the apartment came with window coverings such as blinds, dust them with a feather duster or damp cloth. Dust the windowsills with a damp cloth too.
Return all keys, garage door openers and other gadgets that were included with the apartment. Failure to return every item may necessitate deductions from your deposit.
Walk through the apartment with the landlord before you leave so you can provide input as the landlord is inspecting the premises. If the landlord finds issues, provide information as appropriate. For example, if the frayed spot on the carpeting inside the hall closet was there when you moved in, give the landlord this information.
Items you will need
- Move-out checklist
- Cleaning supplies
- Spackling paste
- Vacuum cleaner
- Feather duster
- It’s best if you walk through your entire apartment upon beginning a rental to note any defects or issues that exist when you take occupancy. Noting these preexisting conditions will ensure that you don't foot the bill for these repairs.
- If you are vacating prior to the end of the lease, you may need to be proactive and get creative to avoid the landlord charging fees and penalties because you are breaking the lease. Offer to take the responsibility of finding a new tenant to replace you.
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