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If you're a renter, the first costs that probably come to mind when budgeting are your rent, your utilities and other monthly bills. But there's a one-time cost associated with renting that's easy to forget: the security deposit required when you move into a new place.

That's usually a hefty chunk of change, so you want to make sure you'll get your full security deposit refund when it's time to move out. Here's what to do before you turn in the keys for good.

1. Maintain Your Space

It doesn't take too much work to keep your home clean while you live in it – and doing so will help make sure that no lasting damage keeps you from getting your deposit back. Cleaning up on a regular basis means vacuuming, dusting and wiping down or scrubbing surfaces, plus acting fast with messes, like spills, to avoid set-in stains.

If you run into a problem with your rental, reach out to your landlord right away. Homes and apartments need regular maintenance, and it's your landlord's responsibility to take care of standard and routine repairs. If you address issues immediately, they'll likely fall into that "standard and routine" category. But ignoring or trying to hide problems can mean that you won't see your security deposit refund later.

2. Make Small Fixes Before You Go

Leading up to your move, there are plenty of little things you can do around your space to spruce it up and return it to its original condition. Go through your home room by room and make sure to:

  • Paint walls to return them to their original colors, if you painted while you lived there.
  • Remove nails or tacks from the walls and patch the holes with some spackling paste and sandpaper.
  • Clean places that your regular routine might have missed: Wipe down the inside of the fridge, scrub the oven and consider having carpets cleaned.

3. Take Pictures and Meet With Your Landlord

Once you've moved all your belongings and furniture out of your home, do a final walk-through of the space. Take pictures and document how you left the home, in case you don't get back what you think you should. Ideally, do this with your landlord to show them what you've cleaned or replaced. This is a good time to ask if there's anything else you need to do to get your security deposit back before you leave.

Think and Act Before You Move In

While these tips will help you get your security deposit refund if you're already living in your rented space, the best way to ensure you'll get your money back is to be proactive before you move in. Ideally, you shouldn't sign a lease without taking the following steps.

  • Do your due diligence. Is the landlord or property management company legitimate? Do they have any complaints filed against them? Check out the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) online listings to see. If they don't have a relationship with the BBB, run a general Google search instead.
  • Walk through the apartment with the landlord or property manager and note any issues, damages or problems together. Document these in writing and with photos so that both parties agree about the apartment's condition prior to you moving in.
  • Read your lease. Understand the terms and conditions before you sign and know what's required in order to receive your security deposit refund.

Your security deposit represents a significant sum of money, so take the time and make the effort to ensure you don't put it in jeopardy. If you follow these steps, you'll be in good shape to receive your security deposit back when it's time to move.

This information and recommendations contained herein is compiled from sources deemed reliable, but is not represented to be accurate or complete. In providing this information, neither KeyBank nor its affiliates are acting as your agent or is offering any tax, accounting, or legal advice.

By selecting any external link on, you will leave the KeyBank website and jump to an unaffiliated third party website that may offer a different privacy policy and level of security. The third party is responsible for website content and system availability. KeyBank does not offer, endorse, recommend, or guarantee any product or service available on that entity's website.

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