Top Tips to Get Your Deposit Back

Imagine a stack of boxes, organized with detailed labels that at a glance reveal the contents. They are tidily stacked on meticulously swept and mopped floors; rugs have all been rolled and bagged or taped. Closets, drawers, and cabinets are empty and wiped down. Art and wall décor are down, and bubble wrapped, walls are bare except for the pin size holes. Blinds and windows are free of dust. Toilets, showers and sinks sparkle like the day they were installed. The property manager tours the space and declares you will not be charged for cleaning or repairs, and to expect a full refund! Move-out fantasy, right? I am here to tell you that with planning, sweat equity and teamwork, it absolutely can happen! The tips I am sharing with you today will help you save money and help you teach your college students how to move out.


As a mom of two young adults, we have run the gamut from paying for clean-up and repairs, to receiving full refunds. What I have discovered is that the more involved I am at move-in and move-out the more likely we are to see a refund or at least have no additional charges. The ONE factor that consistently had the greatest impact on every move? Time. When enough time was built into the process, the greater the likelihood of a full refund.

Tip 1 – Begin with the end in mind. What is the goal? Not be charged for clean up or repairs? Deposit refunded? Before furniture is placed or a box unpacked, do a thorough walk-through of the unit. Document EVERYTHING with video; open all cabinets and drawers Why? With the video, you now have a guide for what the unit needs to look like when the keys are returned. Talk to your student about being a responsible tenant. Be sure that they understand that it means more than paying the rent and utilities on time. It also means being a good neighbor within the complex, and steward of the property. The staff are there to help and should be treated with respect.

Tip 2 – Assess between semesters - Do a walk through halfway through the lease with your student. Your student can do this on their own, but if this is their first place, consider doing it alongside or virtually so they learn first-hand what is expected. Have them turn in any work orders, even big things like a hole in the wall. If they do this at the end of the first semester, it allows the complex time to get things done while your student and their roommates are away for break. Also, have your student perform a deep cleaning or surprise them and order a cleaning service for deep cleaning between the semesters.

Tip 3 – Make hay while the sun is shining. Frequently there are a couple of months between the end of the spring semester and when your student must be out of an apartment. Put that time to good use. Submit work orders for paint touch ups, holes in walls, scratches in the flooring, etc. so that you are not charged at move out. What is the plan when they move out? Are their belongings going to storage for a couple of weeks between moves or do they get to move from one unit to another? If they think they can get the move out done themselves, smile big, nod your head, and show up with your packing and cleaning supplies and schedule movers if needed. Plan on two to three days of sorting, packing and cleaning. Don’t forget the baseboards, refrigerator, freezer and bathrooms. Remember the goal is to get your deposit money returned.

As a bonus, I have included a couple of cleaning tools that work well on stubborn areas. Bathroom grout and caulking can easily mildew or mold in a humid bathroom environment. I always start with bleach and water sprayed on and left for a couple of hours. If more is needed, the top three cleaners are Grout-eez $20.00; Black Diamond Stone Works Ultimate Grout Cleaner $13.00; Softscrub Gel Cleaner $3.98 all available on Amazon. Be sure to read the labels to make sure they work for your cleaning dilemma.

For hard water scale and build up on toilets and other porcelain a pumice stone (yep the kind you use on your feet from Walgreens or CVS) gently scrubbed on the buildup will break it down and does not mar the porcelain. For marks on walls try Mr. Clean Magic Erasers. Use gently to not remove paint color.



There you have it, my best tips for getting a deposit refund. Begin with the end in mind and document the condition of the unit, halfway through the lease assess and do a walk through, turn in any work orders and a deep clean and finally take advantage of the gap between the end of the semester and the end of the lease and allow yourself extra time to pack and clean the unit well before turning in the keys. Let me know if it helps you and your student. For more great tips and ideas to help you and your college student, join our email list and follow us on Instagram and Facebook.

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