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Tips for Moving Out and Getting Your Security Deposit Back

Do I have to give my landlord advance notice that I am moving out?

Unless your landlord has given you a notice to vacate, you are required to give advance notice. If you have a long lease, such as a one-year lease, it probably states that you will be responsible for the rent for the entire lease term even if you move out early. You cannot break a lease in the middle of the lease term. If your landlord agrees to end the lease early, you should get that agreement in writing and it should clearly state that there will be no penalty for vacating before the end of the lease term.

How much notice do I have to give my landlord?

If you have a written lease, go by what it says. If you have a verbal lease, you need to give your landlord 15 days written notice that you plan to vacate at the end of the term.

How should I notify my landlord?

The best way to notify your landlord is in writing, delivered by certified mail or in person, but your written lease may have special instructions which you should follow. Keep a copy of your notice for your records.

What should I do before I move out?

After you remove your belongings, clean the premises thoroughly. Then, take pictures of the premises and note when you took them. Invite the landlord to make a final inspection of the premises. Have a witness present. Ask the landlord if the premises are clean and in order. If the landlord points out a problem, such as a dirty oven, you may want to offer to correct it.

Make sure you return the keys to the landlord. Remember, you are still responsible for the rent until you remove your belongings and turn in the keys. You should notify the utilities that you are vacating so that the service can be taken out of your name.  But never have the utilities turned off unless you notify your landlord that you are doing so. If you don’t notify the landlord and the pipes freeze, you may be held responsible for the damage.

You are not entitled to the return of your security deposit until you vacate the property.  You must request the deposit in writing and give your landlord your new address.  Keep a copy of the letter for your records.   Do this just before or at the time you move. It is a good idea to send the notice of your new address in writing by certified mail, return receipt requested, so you have proof your landlord received the notice.

How long do I have to wait before I receive my Security Deposit?

Your landlord has 30 days after you vacate to return you security deposit or send you a list of rent owed and/or alleged damages to the property.  The amount claimed can be deducted from the deposit.  If your landlord fails to do either, you may sue the landlord for double the difference between the amount of the deposit and any actual damages or rent owed by you. If you have not given the landlord written notice of your new address, you lose the right to this double recovery, but you still have the right to sue for the deposit itself.

How much of my security deposit can the landlord withhold?

The law allows a landlord to keep all or part of a security deposit to cover other money you may owe under the lease, including rent. If the security deposit isn’t large enough to cover all the back rent or damage, your landlord can sue you for the balance.

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