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Alright, so your lease is up, and you're ready to move out. All that's left is to pack up and ….. (hopefully, maybe, you think) get your security deposit back! The best way to put yourself in a position to get it all back is to just be a good tenant. Never have friends over, don't move your stuff in, just don't really ever go inside the place. Duh!

Unfortunately, the "abstinence argument" isn't realistic, but there's a really easy way to ensure you get your security deposit back. The most important things are:

1. Clean up the apartment on your way out.

This includes sweeping, vacuuming, mopping, scrubbing, and wiping down any surfaces if need be. This will minimize the amount of work a cleaning crew will need to do in between tenants. Since your landlord is the one fronting the bill for this, he or she will be super happy that you were such responsible tenants ;) But seriously, it's common courtesy.

2. Throw out the trash.

This includes any furniture you're not keeping or selling. Again, it's common courtesy and will save your landlord (or the next tenants) the sweaty headache. Just remember, karma is real.

3. Patch holes and/or paint.

Did you install your sweet Plasma TV on a wall mount? Or how about that hole you accidentally made in the stairwell from when you were moving the new couch in (and out)? It's easier and cheaper than you think to take care of. Just pick up some spackle and sample paint from your local hardware store and get it done. Every little fix matters, and will ensure your landlord has no reason to confiscate your security deposit. Getting nickeled and dimed sucks, trust us.

But what if your landlord wants to keep some of your deposit? You're still in luck. Laws are obviously state-specific, but generally are extremely tenant friendly, and require substantial proof on the part of the landlord to actually confiscate your security deposit. If you're ready to get technical, then check out the legal mumbo jumbo and links, below.

Good luck, and don't hesitate to let us know if you have any questions or issues!

In Massachusetts

From MA - Chapter 186, Section 15B: http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartII/TitleI/Chapter186/Section15B

Security Deposit (SD) info upon moving in to your apartment (in MA):
- The SD must be less than, or equal to, the 1st month's rent.
- It continues to be the tenant's property, and must be in a separate account within that state. It shall not be commingled with assets of the lessor, and isn't subject to claims of any creditor of the lessor.
- Your landlord is required to give a signed receipt of the amount received within 30 days of transfer. If an agent collects the SD on the landlord's behalf, then the receipt must also reflect this. The receipt must also include the name and location of the bank where it's deposited, as well as the account number. If you don't receive this within 30 days, you are eligible for the immediate return of your SD, or you can deduct the amount from your next month's rent.
- The landlord is also required to provide a signed written statement of the present condition of the apartment, including a comprehensive list of existing damagers and any violations of the state sanitary/building codes. If you submit a separate listing of different damages, the landlord needs to sign and return that copy as well, with an updated list or a clear statement of disagreement attached. Similarly, if you don't receive this doc, you can request your SD back.

SD info upon moving out of your apartment (in MA):
- The SD and any accrued interest must be returned within 30 days of the end of your tenancy, unless there are damages warranting a deduction.
- Your landlord is allowed to deduct unpaid rent, water (and other utility) charges, unpaid increases in RE taxes (although this must be explicitly mentioned in the lease), and other reasonable amounts necessary to repair damages that were under the tenant's control. Reasonable "wear and tear" is excluded, as are damages that were accounted for at the beginning of the tenancy, but if the cost to repair damages exceeds the amount of the SD, the landlord has the right to recover additional money.
- If any deductions are to be made, the landlord must maintain a list with detailed description(s) of the damage(s), whether repairs were made, and the dates and receipts of any repair work. These records must be kept at an office of the landlord or agent for 2 full years after the end of tenancy, and tenants can inspect this list during normal business hours.
- If the tenant is not provided with a list of damages, or if no damages are documented, the tenant is entitled to the full amount of the SD + accrued interest immediately. If it still isn't returned within 30 days of the end of tenancy, they are entitled to 3X the amount owed.

All 50 States

Find your state-specific laws here: http://www.landlord.com/security-deposit-law-guide.htm.

Related: security deposit, deposit security, security damage deposit, rental security deposit, security deposit law, tenant rights, help with security deposit, return security deposit, security deposit interest.

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