Look closely to see the mess on windows in this bedroom.

For many renters in Northern Virginia the subject of the security deposit is somewhat of a touchy subject. Many renters assume they should receive their security deposit back in its entirety as long as there is no significant damage done to the rental property. However, this is rarely true as there are number of factors which contribute to whether or not the security deposit or a portion of the deposit will be returned to the renter when they vacate the premises.

Did You Do Any Major Damage?

Certainly doing major damage to the rental such as putting holes in the walls, breaking appliances or tearing up the flooring may warrant the security deposit being kept but even in these cases the property manager must justify these costs. In other words the property manager cannot use one damaged item to justify keeping the whole security deposit. Rather the property manager is obliged to determine a cost to repair the item. If this estimate is large enough to justify not returning the security deposit the renter should be informed of the estimated cost of repairing the rental.

Is Your Rental Clean Enough?

Dirty Stove

All rentals should be cleaned thoroughly before the tenant vacates the property. This should include extensive cleaning of all rooms of the rental including the bedrooms, bathrooms and any common areas. A cleaning should also include cleaning of all of the blinds in the rental. Blinds can be rather difficult to clean and many cleaners charge approximately $10 per blind if they deem there is a need to clean these items. This can add up rather quickly if there are a number of windows in the rental.

Many property managers also perform a number of standard cleaning functions when any resident vacates the property. This may include items such as cleaning out the refrigerator, shampooing the carpet or repainting the walls. When these items are required, there is typically a fee associated with each item. In many cases, adding up these required fees results in a number which is likely already approaching the sum of the security deposit. Additionally, property managers often only allow for one hour of cleaning services to prepare an rental for the next residents. This is rarely enough time to complete the work and therefore renters wind up being charged an additional fee at an hourly rate.

Have You Read Your Contract Documents?

Renters who want to have the greatest chance of having a large portion of their security deposit refunded to them should be very familiar with their contract documents. This is important while living in the rental as well as while getting ready to vacate the rental. It is important to be familiar with the contract terms while living in the rental because it can prevent the renter from making decorating choices which are explicitly prohibited by the rental agreement. These types of decisions can be costly in the long run because they may result in the renter being assessed for perceived damages by the property manager.

broken screens
broken screens

Renters should also carefully review the contract documents as they are preparing to vacate the property. This is important because it may help the renter to clean and make repairs to the rental in accordance to guidelines set forth by the property manager. Doing this will make it much more likely the renter will not be assessed exorbitant fees at the conclusion of the rental agreement.

Who Gets the Deposit?

It’s important to understand that neither the property manager nor the landlord ever get any of the tenant’s deposit. Property managers don’t like withholding deposit money and they don’t like doing the extra work when deposit is withheld. Deposit when it is withheld from the tenant is paid directly to contractors, cleaners or goes toward actual expenses. It never goes into the landlord’s pocket or the property manager’s account.

Rentals

Will Nesbitt

View posts by Will Nesbitt
Will is the principal broker of Nesbitt Realty and Condo Alexandria. He is licensed in anywhere in the Commonwealth of Virginia, but focuses on those communities found in and around Alexandria, Arlington, Mount Vernon and Springfield/Franconia. Will has been involved in real estate management, sales and investment for more than twenty years. He is a veteran of the U.S. Army. While in the army, he studied Russian at Monterey's Defense Language Institute. He is also a "veteran of the dotcom wars" and built most of the sites associated with NesbittRealty.com Will currently resides in Belle Haven Estates just outside Old Town, overlooking New Alexandria. He is a former president of the Mount Vernon Youth Athletic Association and founded the Alexandria Fun with Friends Group. Will is the author of BattlestorM, a tabletop fantasy game, which was published by Ral Partha Publishing in the late '90's, and Arthur's Realm, a boardgame available at the Gamecrafter.