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If you are renting a house or apartment, you most likely paid the landlord a hefty security deposit before moving in. In addition to keeping your rental unit in good condition, there are several things you can do to protect your rights and increase your chances of getting your deposit back.

The first is to exercise your right to have an “initial inspection.” The initial inspection by your landlord happens before you move out. It occurs no more than two weeks before the end of your tenancy. This an important tool to protect yourself from unreasonable or surprise deductions. But, you must tell your landlord that you want to schedule the inspection. You have the right to be present during the inspection. At the end, the landlord must leave you with an itemized statement. This statement must list the conditions or damage that could lead to deductions from your security deposit unless corrected before the end of your tenancy.

The itemized statement should not include damage or conditions that existed when you moved in or normal wear and tear—for example, if the carpet has become worn from ordinary use. The landlord can list things like mildew, a flea infestation, nail holes, chipped counters, or carpet stains that were not there when you moved in. Take pictures of any problems noted on the itemized statement, especially if you plan to address them before moving.

For other important information and tips on security deposit refunds, download our info sheet in English or download it in Spanish. You can also check out our Resources page for more housing resources. If you believe your landlord took unfair deductions from your security deposit, call us to do an intake and request a consultation with a housing attorney.