Author: Nicole Garner
I recently had a past client reach out to me after they had moved out of their rental at the end of the lease. They thought they had taken all the correct steps to ensure the full return of their deposit and expected it to be promptly sent to them. However, after weeks of calls, emails and text messages with the property management company, they received a response citing property damage and the landlord offering to return only 50% of their very large deposit. After providing them additional information on their rights as a renter and landlord obligations, they were able to finally obtain their full deposit.
So, what can you do to ensure the safety of your housing deposit with a landlord?
Always Complete A Move-In Condition Report
The Residential Lease Inventory and Condition Form should be provided to you by either your Realtor®, the Property Manager, or the Landlord. This will allow you to document any deficiences with the property prior to you taking possession, and will prevent you from being held financially responsible for their repair upon your move out. While it may seem silly to document scuffs on paint or a crack on the ceiling, being detailed on condition report is crucial documentation should the landlord attempt to blame you for the damage.
Take pictures of all issues that are noted in the move-in condition report. If you have the ability to add a date to the pictures, do it. Should there be a question of when the pictures were taken to establish pre-existing issues, a date stamp will firm up the foundation for your position.
Make sure that you complete AND RETURN the move-in condition report within the required time allowed by the landlord. Best practice is to return as soon as possible but make sure that you at least comply with the landlord's deadline. There is a place at the bottom of the form for the Property Manager or Landlord to sign, acknowledging receipt. Get a signed copy provided to you for your records and for reference at move out.
Give Required Notice for Departure
Refer back to your lease for the landlord's terms for time required to give notice of move out. Failing to give your landlord enough notice could allow them to deduct from your deposit for marketing time lost for finding another tenant. Always give notice in writing and keep a copy for your records.
Conduct A Move-Out Inspection
Arrange with the Property Manager or Landlord to conduct a move-out inspection prior to the surrendering possession of the property. Have your copy of the Condition Form and pictures with you during this inspection to ensure that you are not charged for any damage that was present at your move-in.
Deposit Return Timeline
You have moved out and successfully established that the property was returned in the same condition as when you took possession. Under the Texas Property Code Ann. § 92.104, a landlord must return security deposits within 30 days of a tenants departure. Landlords that retain some or all of a deposit to cover damage and unpaid rent must provide an itemized, written accounting. Failure to return deposits in a timely manner or incorrectly deduct from deposits could have legal implications. If you find yourself in this situation and feel like your Landlord has not been acting in good faith, I recommend contacting an Attorney to enforce your rights.
Knowing your rights are the first step to protecting them. Check out our other blog posts for more valuable information!
** The above statements should not be considered legal advice. Windsor Hill Real Estate Group, nor its agents, are licensed legal professionals and cannot give legal advice. Always seek legal advice from an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.**