Let’s say I miraculously have $1,000 to just give away. So I put a post out on social media that the first one at my office will get $1,000. No questions asked. No strings attached. Cash in hand and you are on your way with some serious cash to fulfill all your dreams.
Sounds great, but can you imagine what the roads would be like between here and there? I’m not saying my social media footprint is big enough that I’ll have all of Sioux Falls running to me. But I would reach at least a few of you (you know who you are) who would do just about anything to claim the $1,000 cash. That’s a lot of money.
When it is $1,000 or some other amount of cash, sometimes any amount of cash, we can do some crazy things to capture that potential windfall. Unfortunately, when it is not cash immediately staring us in the face, we can lose focus pretty quickly.
Such is the case with a security or damage deposit when renting. Whether it is an apartment, duplex, or single-family house, nearly all of them will have some sort of deposit required with a rental agreement. From that point, it will usually be a year or more before we even think about the deposit. Not until moving out does the money come back up.
If you are renting, your deposit should always be on your mind. It is often those little things that happen over the course of the lease that result in tenants losing some or all of their deposit. Here are four different things that could cost the tenant cash when they move out:
- Cleaning – Dirt builds up. Accidents happen. If you aren’t cleaning those things over the course of your lease, the landlord will have to do all of that cleaning for you. And you will pay them for it. But maybe you’ve kept it clean during your time there. You just left a few things behind that you didn’t care about. Well, if they have to clean them out, the landlord will deduct that cost from your deposit as well.
- Maintenance – Beyond the dusting, vacuuming, and scrubbing, there are some maintenance things that you may be responsible for as well. Are all of the light bulbs working when you leave? If they were all in working order when you signed the lease (which they should have been) the landlord can require they all be working when you move out. If not, they will deduct the cost of new light bulbs from your deposit. If you are responsible for keeping up the yard (mowing, weeds, etc.) but haven’t been, the cost of that extra work can be deducted as well.
- Damage – As previously mentioned, accidents happen. I get it. So do landlords. But if the damage was your fault, you can be held responsible for the cost of fixing those repairs. Patching drywall, holes in doors, tears in window screens, snags in the carpet, cupboard doors that have literally fallen off their hinges – all repair costs that the landlord can deduct from your damage deposit.
- Unpaid Rent – There was that one month that you were a little short and the landlord let it slide. Or maybe you just decided to move somewhere else before your lease expired. In either case, you agreed to pay a certain amount of rent and haven’t, so that unpaid rent can be deducted from your deposit at the end of your lease.
So here’s where the photocopying cash comes in.
First, the legal mumbo jumbo. Photocopying an entire dollar bill can be construed as counterfeiting. The US Secret Service does not take that lightly. But put a sticky note or piece of paper over part of the bill and you should be all good.
Now, take that photocopy of your deposit in cash and hang it up where you will see it. Every. Single. Day.
When the dust is getting thick and the refrigerator is growing fur and you are tempted to avoid cleaning yet again, look at that deposit.
When your friends are getting a little rowdy and decide your living room is the best place for full-on not-so-professional wrestling, take a glance at the photocopy of your deposit and calm them down or throw them out before someone’s head goes through the wall and your landlord charges you to fix it.
Thinking about moving out early because it’s now summer and your apartment doesn’t have a pool? That’s right. Look at that deposit and decide if an afternoon by an overcrowded pool is really worth the cost of moving out early.
Money is a big motivator for most people, whether we want to admit it or not. By keeping that deposit near the front of our mind, we can take steps throughout the lease that will give us a better chance of getting said deposit back.
Let’s be honest. Renting is so much more than just signing a few pieces of paper and getting the keys. Did you know the Center for Financial Resources offers tenant education? We love to partner with landlords and other organizations to offer classes. The knowledge from the class can make a big difference in tenant/landlord relations, tenant/tenant relations, and make the whole experience much more pleasant.
written by Breck Miller
images courtesy freedigitalphotos.net