How To Get Your Security Deposit Back In New York City

When you’re renting a residential dwelling in New York City, there’s a good chance you’ll need to place a security deposit at the time you sign your lease. The purpose of a security deposit is to cover damages to the unit that you cause during your stay. This may include anything from accidentally breaking a set of blinds or scuffing the floors. When you move out, your landlord assesses the property for damage and deducts any necessary funds from your security deposit to cover repairs. The remainder of the money should be returned to you.

Ideally, you’ll be able to get your full security deposit back when you move out—but that can be easier said than done! Fortunately, there are a few steps you can take to maximize your chances of getting your full security deposit back and to do so without a headache.

Check The Terms Of Your Lease

Start by reviewing your lease so you know exactly what you agreed to when you signed it—especially if it’s been a while since you signed your original lease agreement. If you can’t locate a copy of your lease, contact your landlord or head down to the leasing office. They should have it readily available in their files and will be able to provide you with a copy.

As you review the terms of your lease, look specifically for any clauses related to your security deposit. Make note of exactly how much of a deposit you paid (a total of one month’s rent is pretty typical) along with what could cause you to forfeit some or all of your deposit upon moving out if you do not get a moving out cleaning.

In some cases, for example, breaking your lease for any reason could be grounds for the landlord to retain your full security deposit. Most often, however, deductions from a tenant’s security deposit will occur when damage has been done to the unit itself. Some common items that could result in lost security deposit funds include:

  • failing to patch holes in walls
  • failing to repaint to a neutral color before moving out
  • damaged window treatments
  • damaged or stained floors/carpeting
  • lingering smells or odors (from pets or cigarette smoke)

If any of these apply to you, you’ll want to go out of your way to make any necessary repairs before you move out. For holes in walls left by art/decor that you hung up, a small amount of spackle and patching paint can go a long way. You may even be able to inexpensively replace broken window treatments, such as blinds, before you move out.

Schedule A Professional Cleaning

One of the best ways to maximize your ability to collect your full security deposit upon moving out is to schedule a professional cleaning of your apartment. This cleaning should include such services as:

  • sweeping, mopping, and vacuuming
  • dusting of all hard surfaces and baseboards
  • window cleaning and disinfecting
  • deep cleaning of kitchen appliances
  • thorough bathroom cleaning and bleaching

A lot of times, lingering smells and odors may be eliminated with a deep cleaning of your apartment. In some cases, however, additional services (such as a professional carpet cleaning) may be required. Still, scheduling a professional cleaning is a great way to make sure your apartment is as clean (or cleaner!) when you move out as it was when you moved in. As a result, you may have an easier time getting your security deposit back.

When you opt for a professional cleaning service before moving out of your rental unit, you can also save yourself a lot of time and stress. More than likely, you already have enough on your plate when it comes to planning your move. You may be spending a lot of your time packing and trying to get the details of your move arranged (hiring movers, finding a new place to live, etc.). With all that in mind, the last thing you want to have to worry about is cleaning your apartment before you turn in the keys. In fact, you might even want to consider hiring the same company to deep clean your new place before you move in so you have one less thing to worry about!

Hiring a maid to perform a deep clean of your place before you move out can take a lot of the stress out of moving and save you valuable time so you can focus on other aspects of your move. Meanwhile, when you hire a professional, you can enjoy the peace of mind in knowing that only the best of cleaning supplies and equipment will be used to deep clean your rental unit from top to bottom.

Insist On A Walk-Through

When you moved into your rental unit, you should have been provided a checklist that allowed you to make note of any imperfections or damage to the unit prior to you moving in. The purpose of this checklist is to ensure that you’re not held responsible for any damage that was pre-existing. Before you move out, make sure to obtain a copy of this checklist from your leasing records and compare it to the current state of the rental unit. This will give you a better idea of any damage that may have occurred during your stay that you will be held responsible for.

When you hand in your keys, insist on a walk-through with your landlord or with a leasing agent from the property management company. This way, you can be present as they inspect your apartment and make any notes on your checklist. If you are living in a doorman building you may also ask your doorman. You can also avoid surprises when it comes to your security deposit by being present at the time of the walk-through.

In addition to doing a walk-through with your landlord, it’s also a good idea to carefully document the condition of the unit when you move out. This should include taking detailed pictures on your phone (and backing them up somewhere safe) so your landlord cannot claim that any damage done after you moved out was your fault.

Reach Out To Your Landlord

Keep in mind that while your landlord is required by state law to refund your security deposit (as applicable with your lease agreement terms) in a timely manner, you’ll actually need to be the one to reach out to your landlord or property management company with your new contact information. Otherwise, they won’t know where to send your check!

Specifically, be sure to provide your new mailing address or a PO Box where your security deposit check can be delivered, along with additional contact information (such as your cell phone number and e-mail address). In most cases, you should expect to get your security deposit back within 30-60 days.

If You Don’t Get The Full Deposit Back…

There are many reasons as to why you may not receive your full security deposit back. One common mistake tenants make is assuming that they can skip out on their last month’s rent because they paid a full month’s security deposit when they moved in. This is typically not the case, as the deposit is meant specifically to cover damages to the unit and not designed to cover rent. Check your lease agreement if this is something you’re wondering about, but if you didn’t receive your deposit back at all and didn’t pay your last month’s rent, this is likely why.

If your landlord needed to use any of your security deposit to pay for damages to the unit before renting it back out, these costs should be outlined in detail and submitted to you. For example, if your landlord needed to have the carpets deep cleaned to remove stains you caused while living in the unit, he or she should send you an itemized list of all expenses related to having the carpets cleaned. The same applies to any other repairs or services that may have been required.

You don’t have to (nor should you) take your landlord’s word for what these repairs and services cost! Don’t hesitate to ask for documentation or receipts if they aren’t automatically provided to you. After all, this is your hard-earned money at stake.

When To Seek Legal Intervention

In most cases, disputes surrounding security deposits can be worked out between you and your landlord with a little bit of communication. If you believe any of your security deposit is being unfairly held from you, however, you may need to speak with a lawyer and take the matter to small claims court. The same applies if it’s been more than two months since you moved out of your rental unit and still haven’t received any correspondence regarding your security deposit. If this is the case, start by contacting the leasing office to ensure they have your forwarding information.

If your deposit is being held for any reason you don’t agree with, it may be worth scheduling a consultation with an experienced attorney. He or she will be able to determine whether or not you have a case to go to small claims court in an effort to recover your deposit. The same applies if your landlord tries to return your deposit without any accrued interest; in New York, landlords are legally required to pay interest (usually a small amount below 1%) to a tenant if they own a rental building with six or more units.

The Bottom Line

It’s very common practice for landlords to collect security deposits from tenants before they move in. And as long as you take good care of the rental unit and follow the terms of your lease, you should have no trouble collecting your security deposit (plus a little interest) when you move out.

Leaving your rental unit in tip-top shape can make it easier to collect your deposit when the time comes, so consider hiring a professional cleaning company to handle this for you. Maid Sailors specializes in move-in/move-out cleanings for this exact purpose, and services include deep cleaning, dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and so much more! Schedule your move-out cleaning today or contact us to find out more about our cleaning service options in New York City and the surrounding areas. We sincerely look forward to serving you!

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