How to Fix Common Damage Issues Before Moving Out

Moving out of your apartment can be bittersweet. You pack up all of your things, begin moving furniture, start taking down wall art– and, find yourself face to face with that golf ball-sized hole in the wall you accidentally made one night, then covered with art.

After living in an apartment for at least a year, there’s bound to be some small damage here and there. While some wear and tear is normal and should be built into your lease, fixing minor damage before moving out will ensure you get your full security deposit back. Plus, you’ll stay on good terms with your landlord, who you may need for references down the road.

To make sure you leave your apartment in good condition before moving out, take a look at these normal damage issues and their fixes:

Small holes

After taking down the photos from your gallery wall, you probably noticed the many small holes left by nails that were used to hang the frames. Patching small holes left by nails, tacks and screws is simple and will leave the walls looking great again.

You’ll need some spackling paste, a putty knife and some sandpaper. Squeeze a small glob of the spackle into each hole, then use the putty knife to spread and blend it over the hole and wall. Once the spackle is dry, use the sandpaper to lightly sand the area, especially around the edges, to leave a smooth, flat wall.

In a real pinch, you can use some materials around the apartment to fill the hole. Plain white toothpaste or baking soda mixed with white glue can also work to fill nail holes, but aren’t recommended unless you absolutely have no time to get the right materials.

Large holes

Now it’s time to tackle that large hole you hid under your favorite painting. Mending large holes in drywall isn’t as easy as some of the other fixes, but it will most likely cost you less than if you were to let your landlord handle it and deduct it from your deposit .

Pick up a mesh repair patch at the hardware store to use with your spackle. Then, cut the patch so that it fits over the hole and the surrounding wall. Cover the patch with spackle, and after it dries, sand down the edges so they blend into the wall completely.

Scuff marks

Though scuff marks likely aren’t going to cost you any of your security deposit, they make the apartment appear dirtier than it is and make more work for whoever has to clean thee apartment.

Since I seem to make an inordinate amount of scuffs on the walls of my apartments, I typically don’t try to tackle them all– just really noticeable and large ones. A magic eraser works wonders to get rid of them, so pick up a couple and your walls will be white again in no time.

Broken blinds

Another common damage issue I’m guilty of is bending or even breaking some of my window blinds. Before moving out, dust your windows and blinds, and make sure none are bent or cracked. If bent, do your best to straighten them out as much as possible. If you can’t straighten them, or if one of the blinds is broken, start by looking at the bottom – there’s often a spare slat in any set of blinds. If not, look for blinds of the same size and color at your hardware store. Replace the broken slat with the new one, and your landlord won’t ever know the difference!

Carpet stains

If you’re a red-wine drinker living in a carpeted apartment, you probably know a thing or two about removing carpet stains. Tackling stains before they get a chance to set will help your carpet look better overall, but before moving out, peruse the carpet for any stains you might have missed.  Try using baking soda or carpet cleaner first. If that’s not strong enough to remove the stains, consider renting a carpet cleaner from your hardware or grocery store. They’re easy to use, and your carpets will be unrecognizably clean when you’re done.

Fix damage to the carpet

Now that you’ve fixed the stains on the carpet, is it still intact? If there are damaged patches, or if it’s started to come loose around the edges, or any other damage, you’ll want to get it fixed. Even if you have to hire someone, it’s likely going to be cheaper than having your landlord take it out of your deposit.

Scratches on hardwood

Renters love apartments with hardwood floors because they’re much easier to clean than carpet, but they do have one common problem: Hardwood is easy to scratch. There are a couple of quick fixes for the shallower scrapes, though. Many people swear by the walnut method, which involves rubbing a raw walnut along the scrape until the scratch blends into the rest of the floor. This method works well, just not on deep scratches and darker woods.

For deeper scratches, look for a wood-colored marker or pencil at the hardware store. These products are specifically made for filling in and disguising the scrapes.

Replace light bulbs

If any light bulbs burned out in places that you can easily access, now is the time to take care of them. If there are some that are difficult to reach, such as in high up or complicated fixtures, you might need help or for your landlord to handle them. Even so, replacing any easily accessible ones that burned out will give your landlord less to repair and take out of your deposit.

General dirtiness

Deep cleaning your apartment is recommended to ensure you get your full deposit back, and to give your landlord less of a headache when he or she is trying to ready the unit for the next renter.

Give everything a good wiping, sweeping and dusting, but spend extra time in the kitchen and bathroom. The refrigerator, microwave, oven and stove should all be thoroughly cleaned, along with the toilet, shower, tub and sink.

Take pictures

This isn’t a repair but is crucial to getting more of your deposit back. Take pictures of the current state of everything in the apartment that you couldn’t fix yourself. Having this documentation helps as later defense, in case your landlord takes too much out of the security deposit. Having pictures will work much better than your word against theirs in case things end up in front of small claims court.




Top 5 DIY Home Skills You Should Know

One of the best parts about living in an apartment is that when something goes wrong (like the heat isn’t working or the toilet won’t stop running), you don’t really have to take care of it yourself — maintenance can help!

But there are some DIY basics you should know how to do yourself. Sometimes maintenance may not be as quick as you’d like, or it may just be something you’d rather handle on your own. From fixes to decor, here are five easy DIY projects you should know how to do:

How to unclog a drain

Small plumbing inconveniences like a clogged drain or toilet can be frustrating, but the great news is they’re pretty easy to take care of on your own. Unclogging a sink requires just the tiniest bit of plumbing know-how, but it’s relatively simple.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Unclog a DrainTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Unclog a Drain

First, remove the drain stopper by locating the pivot rod that’s holding it in place under your sink. The pivot rod should be stuck through the pipe and secured with a nut on the pipe near the bottom of the sink. Remove the nut and the rod, and the drain stopper should be easy to pull up and out.

Then, use a snake to clear the drain (you can buy these at any hardware store). Thread the snake as far as it will go into the drain– you want it to reach as deep into the P trap as it can go (that pipe that’s shaped like a U). Pull it out slowly, and repeat until you hook whatever’s clogging the pipes. Then, replace the drain stopper and pivot rod, and you’re finished!

Keep in mind that most landlords prohibit tenants from using products like Drano to clear clogs because they can damage pipes.

How to change a showerhead

​There’s nothing worse than a showerhead that makes taking a shower feel like you’re standing underneath a leaky faucet. But while showerheads can’t dictate water pressure, many can adjust the spray into something a little more bearable– and low-flow versions are better for the environment, too.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Change a ShowerheadTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Change a Showerhead

As far as easy DIY projects go, changing a showerhead is one of the simplest– just buy a new one and some Teflon tape (aka plumber’s tape).

Unscrew the old showerhead from its arm using an adjustable wrench or some pliers. You may have a fight on your hands if it’s old, but be careful not to apply too much pressure or squeeze too hard.

Once the old head is removed, clean the end of the pipe and wrap it in a new layer of Teflon tape to prevent leaks. Then, screw your new showerhead on over the tape, and voila! Good as new.

How to hang something heavy

You should know one DIY skill in particular to hang something heavy: how to find a stud. Studs are strong enough to withstand heavy items like floating shelves or mirrors, many of which could damage drywall. One easy way to find a stud is to use an electronic stud finder– just pick one up at the hardware store.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Hang Something HeavyTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Hang Something Heavy

You can also do it the old-fashioned way and simply knock on your walls– a hollow-sounding knock means no stud, while a solid-sounding knock means you’ve hit gold, so to speak. Remember that studs can always be found around windows, doors and in corners, and they’re located every 1.5 to 2 feet.

How to patch a hole in the wall

If you hang a bunch of stuff in your apartment, patching the holes in your walls may be necessary when you move out to ensure you get your security deposit back. All you need to patch holes is some lightweight spackle, a putty knife and some sandpaper.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Patch a Hole in the WallTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Patch a Hole in the Wall

Simply use one corner of the putty knife to scoop out a small amount of spackle, and use it to fill the hole. Then use the straight edge of the putty knife to smooth and even out the spackle. Let it dry for a few hours (or overnight), then sand the area lightly with your sandpaper, blending the spackle into the surrounding drywall.

How to fix your toilet

There are any number of toilet issues renters may want to learn how to fix themselves, but if there’s one you should know it’s how to fix a clog. If your toilet is clogged, it’s time to break out the plunger.

Top 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Fix Your ToiletTop 5 DIY Skills You Should Know - How to Fix Your Toilet

First, place the plunger over the hole at the bottom of your toilet, making sure the rubber head is completely covered by water. If there isn’t enough water in the bowl, simply use a pitcher to add some more. Then, pump the handle into the head a few times and pull the plunger up sharply, breaking the seal. The power of suction should do the trick.




What is Normal Wear and Tear?

It’s important to understand the difference between normal wear and tear and damage.

No matter how careful a tenant you are, over time, your rental is going to show wear and tear.

The carpet may need cleaning. The walls may have dings and scuffs (remember when you moved in that really big bed frame?). But what about that hole in the wall where the doorknob hits? Or the broken window lock? Are those normal wear and tear?

Here’s how to recognize normal wear and tear and what you’re responsible for — your security deposit is on the line.

Understanding normal wear and tear

Everything in our homes has a lifespan. The grout in the shower, for example, might crack, peel or fall off altogether after about 15 years. If you’ve moved in near the end of your grout’s life, and it’s starting to fail, that is just normal wear and tear.

Sure, you should contact your landlord or property manager, but it isn’t your fault that the grout needs serious help. And, your landlord cannot charge you for normal wear and tear.

Normal wear and tear vs. damage

Damage is when something occurs in your rental that wouldn’t happen naturally. It’s due to unreasonable use, an accident or neglect.

That time your cat was really peeved and sprayed urine that soaked through the carpet to the subfloor? That’s going to change the equation for your landlord or property manager since it will affect the value of the property. Bad kitty!

The time your drunk friend broke the bathroom mirror? That’s not normal wear and tear. That’s damage. And you’ll have to pay the damages one way or another.

In some states, including New York, damage beyond normal wear and tear may make you liable for triple the amount it costs to remedy the situation. Check your state law.

Examples of normal wear and tear

Things that happen over time are ultimately the landlord’s responsibility, but it doesn’t hurt to attend to these things before moving out. Even if you’ve already found a new place to live, you want to remain in good standing with your landlord or property manager; you may one day need a reference.

And, it’s never a bad idea to leave the apartment really clean when you move out.

Here are some examples of normal wear and tear:

Moderate dirt or spots on the carpet

Dirty carpet being cleaned.

Stuff happens. The longer you live in an apartment, the more stuff happens. But when you leave your apartment, your goal is to get back that security deposit. Even though spotted carpet is normal wear and tear, you might want to shell out some dough to clean the carpet before you move.

For one thing, the dirt might be more than you’re imagining, and why leave room for a dispute with your landlord, who will charge you for cleaning. Doing it yourself (or having it done) gives you some measure of control over the cost. And keeps you on your landlord’s good side.

When it’s considered damage: Pet stains in the carpet.

Small nail holes in the wall

Repairing small holes in the wall with spackle.

Over the years, you’re going to decorate. If possible when you hang pictures, do so using less intrusive methods than drilling holes. But if that’s not possible, you should repair the holes before moving out. Spackle and a joint knife are pretty cheap, and the fix-it process won’t take that much time out of your day.

When it’s considered damage: Gouges in the wall needing serious repair.

Warped cabinet doors that don’t close

Repairing a cabinet door.

This is likely something you’re not going to fix with a DIY approach, and you don’t have to. But, it’s a good idea to let your landlord know this is happening as soon as you notice it. If a cabinet door is warping it may pull on the hinges and lead to damage on the wood, or the door may fall off altogether.

When it’s considered damage: Door falling off its hinges.

Bathroom mirror loses its silver

Mirror in bathroom with water damage.

Over time, especially in a moist environment like a bathroom, a mirror may desilver. You’ll notice dark or black spots along the edges of the mirror where the thin layer of tin and silver meets onto the back of it.

When this happens it might signify a larger problem — someone in the household is spending a lot of time splashing water on the mirror or your bathroom vent is not working properly and you have a significant amount of humidity in there causing the issue. Let the landlord or property manager know.

When it’s considered damage: Mirrors cracked and broken or caked with makeup.

Clothes dryer thermostat gives out

Clothes inside of a dryer.

This is totally beyond your control. What is in your control is overloading the dryer and causing it to stop moving. That’s a different story and one that might be construed as damage as opposed to normal wear and tear. Contact your landlord or property manager as soon as any appliance that’s part of your unit isn’t working properly.

When it’s considered damage: Broken shelves in the refrigerator, missing trays in the microwave.

Door handle dents wall

Door knob.

As soon as you notice this happening, spend a few bucks on a guard to keep the door from hitting the wall. You can get a rubbery guard to cover the handle itself. Or screw a door stopper into the baseboard. If you don’t attend to this, the little dent can become a larger hole that you — or your landlord — will have to deal with when you leave. Why not nip it in the bud?

When it’s considered damage: Door off its hinges.

Damage (not) done

Obviously, be careful with your apartment; after all, someone else owns it. To make sure you have the best outcome when you move out, you need to document everything before you move in.

Do a walk-through with your landlord or property manager before you move in. Document everything with notes and video. And, while you’re living there, do your part to maintain your space and contact your landlord early on to repair what needs fixing. No sense in letting a loose hinge become a broken door frame. When you move out you want to have your full security deposit returned. Your landlord cannot make deductions for normal wear and tear, but they can make deductions for damage to the property.


Renters Beware: These Hidden Costs May Be in Your Lease

Utilities, pets, parking, amenities — there may be more to your rent payment than you thought.

By Leigh Raper

The rental market is extremely competitive in many urban markets right now. According to the Zillow Group Consumer Housing Trends Report 2017, renters account for 37 percent of all households in America — or just over 43.7 million homes, up more than 6.9 million since 2005.

This jump in the number of renters has put pressure on both tenants and landlords. Tenants are scrambling to find the right place, while landlords are trying to find the right price. And both parties are getting creative about how and when to spend their money.

Renters sometimes forget their landlord is running a business too — until they sign a new or renewed lease, that is. Renters may discover that while the rent seems reasonable, the landlord has included itemized charges for utilities or other amenities that add up to a sizable bottom-line difference.

Power play

Utilities are not exactly a hidden cost, but they’re often overlooked by tenants eager to move into a new apartment or renew their current lease.

Always factor utilities into the overall cost of the property. Landlord-tenant laws in each state govern how utilities can be billed, along with what recourse either party has in the case of missed payments or shutoffs.

Sometimes utilities are in the landlord’s name and included in the overall rent charge. Other times, tenants are required to place the electric or gas bills in their names. (Many municipalities require the water and/or sewer accounts to stay in the landlord’s name.)

Then there’s third-party billing: situations where master meters serve an entire building, in which case the landlord splits the charges among all the tenants and bills them individually. Third-party billing makes sense for the landlord, who can advertise a base rental price but charge the utilities as an add-on.

City ordinances

Certain cities have clamped down on third-party billing, which they view as deceptive. In Seattle, for example, the third-party billing ordinance covers all residents living in buildings with three or more units. The ordinance was written to protect tenants from unscrupulous landlords who were fraudulently overcharging them.

The Tenants Union of Washington State, a nonprofit dedicated to education, organizing and advocacy for tenants, provides detailed information for renters about third-party billing and other important issues related to utility costs.

Many of the best practices they recommend apply to all tenants, regardless of location:

  • Ask questions about utility service before you sign a lease.
  • Set up your utility accounts quickly.
  • Pay utility bills promptly and keep documentation of all payments.
  • Take steps to protect yourself with the landlord.
  • Act immediately to resolve utility disputes.

Other “hidden” charges

There are other fees, besides utilities, that your landlord might charge. Some of these are optional add-ons determined by a certain tenant’s particular situation, but others apply to everyone. Landlords in a competitive rental market might even increase these fees based on supply and demand.

The add-ons can include pet fees or a separate charge for parking. Some properties charge an application fee — whether or not the prospective renter is approved.

Other properties, particularly condos or developments subject to homeowners associations (HOAs), charge move-in fees for tenant-occupied units. Amenities, such as cable TV or internet access, which are not considered utilities under most ordinances, might also be billed through an HOA or the landlord.

Of course, this is all in addition to a security deposit and any rent you might have to prepay, like first and last month’s rent due upon move in.

Have questions? Need help?

Advocacy organizations, like the Tenants Union in Seattle, operate around the country. These nonprofits offer help and information to renters.

State agencies also provide information for both tenants and landlords. For example, Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs publishes a Georgia Landlord-Tenant Handbook on its website. A quick internet search will yield similar results in most states.

Sometimes, though, problems and questions can’t be resolved with online information. That’s where consulting an expert can be a smart solution.

Lawyers who specialize in landlord-tenant law not only are familiar with the underlying law in a given geographic region, but also have experience with the systems and processes that can efficiently and economically resolve disputes. Often, spending money for expert advice early on can yield big savings in the long run.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Originally published April 8, 2016.


4 Secured Credit Cards That Offer Rewards

[Update: Some offers mentioned below have expired and/or are no longer available on our site. You can view the current offers from our partners in our credit card marketplace. DISCLOSURE: Cards from our partners are mentioned below.]

Consumers with poor or nonexistent credit should consider secured credit cards for their spending and credit-building needs. Secured cards have looser credit restrictions and require a security deposit up front to open, but otherwise they operate like traditional credit cards.

With secured cards, your poor or limited credit history won’t necessarily keep you from earning rewards. While most secured credit cards are no-frills affairs, some do offer spending incentives.

Here are four secured credit cards with real rewards.

1. SKYPASS Visa Secured Card

Rewards: One mile for every dollar spent on eligible purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: 5,000 SKYPASS bonus miles upon your first purchase.

Annual Fee: $50

APR:Variable 17.24% on purchases and balance transfers.

Why We Picked It: Cardholders can earn miles with select airlines.

Benefits: Every purchase earns one SKYPASS mile per dollar. You’ll get 5,000 bonus miles right out of the gate and 1,000 bonus miles every year upon renewal. Points can be redeemed for flights and upgrades with SkyTeam partners—including Delta, Korean Air, and Air France—or for other travel expenses.

Drawbacks: There’s a $50 annual fee, and miles are limited to twenty participating airlines.

2. Best Western Rewards Secured Mastercard

Rewards: Thirteen points for every dollar spent on Best Western stays; two points for every dollar spent on other purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: 5,000 bonus points upon your first purchase.

Annual Fee: $29

APR:Variable 21.99% on purchases and balance transfers.

Why We Picked It: Frequent Best Western guests can earn points for future reservations and more.

Benefits: Cardholders earn thirteen points per dollar on Best Western stays, with ten points through the Best Western Rewards program and three points for using your card. All other purchases earn double points. Points can be redeemed for Best Western stays, gift cards, merchandise, and more.

Drawbacks: If you aren’t a loyal Best Western guest, this card isn’t for you. 

3. Navy Federal nRewards Secured Credit Card

Rewards: One point per dollar spent on all purchases.

Sign-Up Bonus: None

Annual Fee: $0

APR:Variable 9.99% to 18% on purchases and balance transfers.

Why We Picked It: Navy Federal members can earn points for goodies.

Benefits: All purchases earn one point. Points can be redeemed for gift cards or merchandise.

Drawbacks: You must be a Navy Federal member to access this card. Points expire after four years.

4. AeroMexico Visa Secured Card

Rewards: Two miles for every dollar spent on gas and groceries; one mile for every dollar spent on everything else.

Sign-Up Bonus: 5,000 bonus miles and a companion flight certificate with your first purchase.

Annual Fee: $0 the first year, then $25.

APR: Variable 23.99% on purchases and balance transfers.

Why We Picked It: Frequent AeroMexico flyers can enjoy the miles earned with this card.

Benefits: Gas and grocery purchases earn double miles, and all other purchase earn single miles. Your first purchase earns 5,000 bonus miles and a companion certificate. Plus, you’ll get an additional $99 companion certificate each year you renew.

Drawbacks: If you don’t fly AeroMexico, you won’t see much value in this card.

Choosing a Secured Credit Card with Rewards

Because secured credit cards are primarily intended for consumers with poor or nonexistent credit, building credit should be your primary goal. Rewards should be a secondary concern.

Pay close attention to the fees and APR associated with any cards you’re considering. Annual fees and interest can eat into the overall value of earned rewards.

You’ll also want to evaluate security deposit policies. Many secured credit cards can be opened with as little as $200, and the credit limit will equal your deposit. Some cards may increase your credit limit without requiring an additional deposit after a period of timely payments and responsible card use.

When it comes to rewards, choose a card that rewards your specific spending habits and provides redemption options you’ll actually use.

What Credit Is Required to Get a Secured Credit Card?

Secured credit cards are generally available to consumers with poor or nonexistent credit history, but that doesn’t mean approval is guaranteed. To increase your chances of approval, you should check your credit score before you apply to make sure you meet the requirements. You can check your credit report for free at

Image: istock

At publishing time, the Discover it Secured Credit Card is offered through product pages, and is compensated if our users apply for and ultimately sign up for any of these cards. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.


Can You Rent an Apartment if You’re Not a U.S. Citizen?

Many Americans are interested in living abroad and experiencing cultures different from their own, so it’s not surprising that many people from elsewhere want to come to America, as well. In fact, according to American Community Survey (ACS) data, more than 43 million immigrants resided in the U.S. in 2016. And many of them rent.

Renting as a non-citizen is absolutely plausible, but just like an American-born renter, you’ll be similarly scrutinized before signing a lease. Read on for a quick rundown of what you’ll likely need to provide and what to expect overall.

Proof of income

That charming accent you bring to the table won’t get you out of paying rent, and your landlord wants to know that you’ll pay on time each month. As such, part of your rental application will ask for information about your job or employment history.

In the United States, the general rule of thumb dictates you should spend about 30 percent of your income on rent. Do the math beforehand to see if you (and your roommate or roommates) can collectively afford the place in which you’re interested, because your landlord’s going to do it for you, as well.

Rent, of course, won’t be your only housing-related expense, so do research (you can even ask the landlord or property manager) to get an estimate of utilities such as water, gas and electricity. Some power companies even have online calculators you can use, plugging in things like square footage to determine what it will cost to heat or cool the place.


Most apartment communities will require a security deposit when you sign a lease. If you have a pet, a pet deposit may be required, as well. These fees serve as financial insurance for the landlord should you fail to pay your rent, break your lease or damage the property in any way.

What’s more, when renting as a non-citizen, you may be asked for a larger deposit in the event the property management company is unable to thoroughly check your credit.

Proof of immigration status

While there are federal laws in place that expressly prohibit landlords or property management companies from discriminating against or excluding prospective tenants on the basis of gender, race, religion, disability, familial status or (and for our purposes here, especially) national origin, it is 100 percent legal to ask rental applicants to provide documentation regarding their immigration status.


Simply put, business is business. Your status is directly connected to whether your landlord can expect you to remain in the United States for the full term of your lease. If your documentation only permits you to stay in the country for another eight months, you won’t be able to fulfill the terms of a 12-month lease. That could be valid grounds for denying your application.

Refusing to rent to a non-citizen solely on the basis of his or her citizenship, however (assuming their citizenship would not prevent them from fulfilling the terms of the lease) is prohibited by law.

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This content is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.



How to Clean an Apartment When Moving Out

The thrill of moving into a new place can quickly dissipate when you realize you have to clean out your former apartment. Apartment move out cleaning may not be fun but it’s something you want to plan for and take seriously since, not only is your security deposit on the line but your credit score, as well as a positive landlord reference for future homes, too.

Apartment move out cleaning doesn’t need to be hard if you plan ahead with a smart, deep cleaning checklist.

1. Follow an apartment move out cleaning inspection sheet

Checking items off a to-do listChecking items off a to-do list

Most landlords provide tenants with an in-and-out inspection sheet (in writing) of exactly what you need to clean in order to get your security deposit back. Every lease is different regarding expectations. Some will say “professionally clean the carpets” and others will simply require you to vacuum.

Hopefully, before you moved in, you noted any dents and dings in the unit and made sure your landlord knew you wouldn’t be responsible for cleaning or taking care of those issues when you moved out.

Read the list carefully, and use it as your starting point. If you don’t have the list anymore, ask for another copy from your apartment manager. They’ll be happy to know you intend to comply. If you don’t have a list from your landlord, start one yourself so you make sure you don’t miss anything as you go through the process.

2. Repair anything you damaged

Power drill fixing door hardwarePower drill fixing door hardware

Before you start your deep cleaning process, take the time to repair things like small holes in the wall, broken blinds, burned out bulbs and chipped paint. It’ll make your job a lot easier as you begin to clean when these details are taken care of in advance.

Pro Tip: If you’re not qualified or have the equipment to do the task, consider hiring someone using a service like TaskRabbit or Angie’s List.

3. Clean things you normally don’t clean

Woman cleaning her windows and blindsWoman cleaning her windows and blinds

In addition to things you likely regularly clean, you’ll want to clean areas you typically don’t clean on a regular basis, such as fans, fan blades, blinds, windows, light fixtures, baseboards and carpets.

Pro Tip: If you don’t have some of the cleaning supplies to do these tasks, pick up some Swiffer disposable cleaning dusters for the blinds and some microfiber cleansing cloths for baseboards. Mr. Clean Magic Erasers are a powerhouse when it comes to a lot of cleaning tasks, including erasing marks from baseboards, light switches and other spots around your home.

4. Start from the top

Living room with ceiling fanLiving room with ceiling fan

As you eyeball what needs to get cleaned, starting from the top means dust or debris will settle below. Since you’re going to be cleaning the entire place, you’ll get there in no time, and you won’t have to do double duty otherwise.

So, start at the top of the room with your ceiling, fan and fan blades. From there, move onto the walls, shelving, windows, blinds and baseboards. End with the flooring.

5. Request a final walk-through

Vacuum on carpetVacuum on carpet

Finally, once you’ve completed your deep cleaning and you’re ready to hand over the keys, ask for an exit walk-through with the landlord. This will allow the landlord to address any outstanding issues or sign off that you’ve left your apartment in a clean state, so you can receive your security deposit.

If this isn’t an option, take photos of every room as you’re leaving it, and send them to the landlord. Doing so shows you’ve been conscientious with your cleaning, as well as provides proof that it was done.

Why an apartment move out cleaning is important

If you’re concerned that you’ve not been able to completely clean the place yourself, you may want to consider hiring a service to do a deep cleaning for you and use the receipt as evidence that it was completed. Whether you do the job or hire it out, leaving an apartment clean is important because your landlord will want to rent your former home to someone else immediately.

If the landlord needs to clean it, you’ll not only lose your security deposit but it will reflect poorly on you. While some people believe it doesn’t matter because you’ve already signed a lease at a new place, a good reference can mean the difference between getting another apartment in the future or securing other loans, such as a car loan.

If you’ve done what you could but left incomplete some repairs or cleaning, you might not see your (full) security deposit. If the repair fees exceed your security deposit, your landlord might send you an itemized bill stating what you owe.

Don’t avoid paying this bill. If you choose not to pay the bill, it will be sent to collections. This will lower your credit score and make it more difficult to rent another unit, obtain a loan, such as a car loan, and can possibly hurt a job search.

The importance of apartment move out cleaning

For most people, cleaning up your apartment for your move-out inspection is not a fun part of the process, but it’s very important that you leave your old unit in the same condition as when you first rented it. It does takes time and likely some money, but having a checklist in place helps make the process faster and easier.

Avoiding an apartment move out cleaning puts your reputation and security deposit at risk. It’s not worth it.