Landlords are entitled to damages upon move out. However, tenants often ask how to retain their security deposit or what to do if the landlord wrongfully takes their security deposit. This blog post hopes to provide tenants with tips to have their security deposit returned at the end of the lease.
10. Get a move in inspection: I often hear tenants say “that was here when I got here.” The landlord will then reply, “if that’s the case, then the tenant should have noticed it at the move in inspection.” However, far to often, the new tenant does not want to rock the boat upon moving into the premises, so they simply do not get a move in inspection.
9. Fill out the move in inspection form. If you notice something upon move in, provide your landlord with notice. It’s important to point out that the place was not perfect upon move in. For example, if the carpet is dirty and worn, note it. By advising the landlord, you could save yourself thousands at move out when the landlord attempts to charge you to install new carpet. There are several forms available online if your landlord doesn’t tender one upon move in. At the bottom of the form, have your landlord sign it and return it to you, as this may become your key piece of evidence upon move out.
8. Keep copies of work orders: During the course of the lease, your unit may be damaged due to no fault of your own. For example, the A/C could leak, causing water damage to your drywall. In such a case, you want to keep the work orders so you are not inadvertently charged for a poor repair. That way, if the landlord charges you later on, you have the proper forms to ensure to rebut any charges to fix the drywall, for example.
7. Report problems quickly and in writing: Under your lease and Arizona law, the tenant has a duty to notify the landlord in the event a problem arises. By doing this, you can avoid the implication that you did something wrong or that you could be liable for the damages upon move out. For a full list of the type the tenant’s responsibilities, visit ARS 33-1341.
Prior to move out:
6. Clean the Premises: The first line of defense to keep your security deposit is to clean the premises. The landlord will typically charge $25/hour to clean the premises and $25 for each bag of trash. This is the easiest expense that can be avoided by simply taking some time and using some elbow grease to ensure the premises looks clean.
5. Make a Video: Before moving out, it’s important to make a video. If the landlord wises to send you a bill to remodel the apartment after you move out, the tenant can simply respond and say I have all the evidence on video. This will likely stop the landlord from moving forward with a lawsuit against you after the lease is over.
4. Demand a move out inspection: Before leaving, demand a move out inspection. Have a copy of your move in inspection with you. Of course, the landlord is entitled to have the tenant pay for damages, but it is not entitled to a remodel at the tenant’s expense. In fact, in many cases, the items the landlord declares as damages should have been on the move-in inspection.
3. Ask for an itemized accounting: Under Arizona law, the tenant has a duty to ask for an accounting:
Within fourteen days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays or other legal holidays, after termination of the tenancy and delivery of possession and demand by the tenant the landlord shall provide the tenant an itemized list of all deductions together with the amount due and payable to the tenant, if any. Unless other arrangements are made in writing by the tenant, the landlord shall mail the itemized list and any amount due, by first class mail, to the tenant’s last known place of residence.
A.R.S. 33-1321(D). If the landlord does not provide an itemized list of damages in a timely matter, he may be deemed to have waived his damages.
After Receipt of Itemized List
2. Review the itemized accounting: It is important to understand exactly what you are being charged for. For example, if you’re being charged for carpet that is over 10 years old, then the IRS depreciation schedules may be helpful to suggest that the carpet is fully depreciated and you do not owe anything to replace old carpet.
1. Call an Attorney: If the landlord improperly takes your security deposit or makes improper charges, the remedies may be quite harsh:
the tenant may recover . . . money due the tenant together with damages in an amount equal to twice the amount wrongfully withheld.
A.R.S. 33-1321(E). An attorney can assist and go over your damages with you to ensure that you’re not being taken advantage of.
David Degnan is a Partner at Degnan Law. David Degnan to set up a consult, please do reach out to his paralegal at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 602-266-0531