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An urban-renting legend: The reliable, quiet, perfect tenant is finally moving…but has to ultimately hound, stalk and beg a non-responsive (ahem, greedy) landlord to get their rightfully deserved security deposit back. It happened to your roommate’s boyfriend’s cousin’s former coworker, and you’ll be damned if it happens to you.

We picked the brain of Lindsay Krantz, a licensed realtor from Citi Habitats, to find six ways to avoid this renter horror story.

nyc deposit dogs

Know exactly what you’re paying for.
Coughing up a month’s rent can be expected, but dog or cat owners may be required to pay more. Inquire early about any separate pet deposits, which can (in extreme cases) cost you upwards of a grand. Watch out for monthly pet rent, as well. Your landlord may also charge a key deposit--which Krantz points out is minimal and fairly uncommon--that you’ll receive back upon key return.

nyc deposit walk through

Do a walk through at move in.
Use the key pickup as an excuse to introduce yourself to the super and point out any sketchy stuff, like plaster peeling on a bathroom ceiling or warped floorboards. Showing that you care will put him or her at ease that you’ll take care of the place during your lease.

Take photos, just in case!
You won’t lose any etiquette points for snapping away on your phone during the walk through. Let your super know you want to document the current conditions since we all tend to overlook stuff you see every day (say, a cracked bathroom tile). Reference photos help determine any damage that occurred under your watch. Plus, they’ll be ammunition in case your landlord holds your security deposit without a concrete reason.

deposit kitchen

Don’t make alterations without approval.
Float any potential rental upgrades past management and document it. Your lease could prohibit painting that accent wall you eyed on Pinterest or switching out kitchen cabinets. There are other ways to achieve an enviable Instagram feed without cheating yourself out of a grand.

Do another walk through when you return the keys.
Schedule a final walk through during key drop-off and draw attention to preexisting damage. Now’s also the time to point out that you cleaned the oven and scrubbed down all the surfaces. Again, take photos during this session, so you’ll have them for comparison just in case.

deposit lawyer

Take action against a tardy deposit return.
Krantz says that you can expect to receive your security deposit back within a few weeks to a month after your lease ends. If you don’t get a check in the mail (and notice complete radio silence from management), consider this a reason to speak up. Thankfully, you (should) have an arsenal of super-led walk throughs and photos documentation before and after your move. This will go a long way if you have to take drastic measures and wind up in court.

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