Posted on August 12th, 2018
In an ideal world, all landlords would reward good tenants by returning their security deposit when they decide to change residences. Alas, we aren’t living in an ideal world. In many countries, getting a rental deposit back means conforming to unrealistically strict rules, where even the tiniest blemish might be held against you. To get what you’re entitled to, you’ll therefore need a move-out cleaning plan, like the one outlined below:
7 Cleaning Strategies to Ensure You Get Your Rental Deposit Back
1. Before you do anything else, get rid of clutter.
Cleaning around clutter is an exercise in frustration. The more stuff you have to move out of the way as you clean, the longer it’s going to take. Clutter can also hide areas of mess, preventing you from doing a thorough job.
While you’re in the process of moving, it’s a good idea to empty your house or apartment of everything you don’t use on a daily basis. Take any items you’re not willing to get rid of permanently and store them in a secure storage unit until you’re set up in your new residence. Note that it’s important to remove and store decorative items, too, like pictures and wall hangings—You’ll need to do that before moving on to step two:
2. Check for any areas that need repair.
Once you’ve removed and stored your wall decorations, remove any nails or screws from the walls. Then, pull your appliances and furniture away from the walls and check for scuffs, scratches, and holes. Patch up any holes or scratches with wall putty and use a light abrasive (e.g., Mr. Clean Magic Eraser) to remove scuffs. Find a shade of paint that matches your walls and paint over puttied areas.
If you’re not confident performing these repairs on your own, ask a home repair professional for help. Poorly executed repairs can create obvious eyesores that all but guarantee you won’t get your rental deposit back.
3. Have your windows cleaned.
If you’re in a house or ground-level apartment, you can attempt to clean your windows yourself, using our guide to cleaning windows effectively. If you’re in an off-ground apartment, you’ll need to arrange to have your windows cleaned professionally.
4. Create a “detail cleaning” checklist.
Cleaning a whole house or apartment is a big (and often stressful) job. It’s therefore easy to miss little details while you work—details that your landlord will probably immediately pick out during inspection. Prevent this from happening by making a detail cleaning checklist that contains all of the following tasks:
-Clean and sanitize both the inside and outside of all appliances. Because your landlord owns your appliances, he or she will pay close attention to whether or not they’re still in “like new” condition.
-Clean the spaces underneath and behind your furniture and appliances. This is the number one “rookie mistake” tenants make when preparing to move out: They don’t actually move their appliances and furniture while cleaning. Instead, they hastily push a broom or vacuum head under them and hope for the best. Unfortunately, this can leave a lot of dust, grime, and hidden damage behind.
If you’re not physically able to move large appliances and items of furniture yourself, either ask a friend for help or hire professional cleaners. Never leave this task undone.
-Dust all of the vents and fans in your home. Don’t forget to clean the tops of ceiling fans and the inside of air vents, too.
-Include ceilings, baseboards, and door frames in your cleaning plan. Note that some ceiling materials, like stucco, are easy to damage. If you have stucco ceilings, either dust them gently with a soft broom or have them professionally cleaned.
-Thoroughly clean all doorknobs and light switches. If you have metal doorknobs, polish them until they gleam.
-When you clean the bathroom, take the time to polish the mirror, shower head, and towel racks. Make sure the shower head is operating smoothly and not clogged with debris (this goes for the shower drain as well).
-Clean your closets, cupboards, and cabinets (both inside and out). Pay special attention to removing cobwebs and finding hidden stains. Don’t forget to clean the tops of your cupboards and bookshelves, too—Because these hard to reach locations are seldom ever cleaned, they often contain alarming amounts of dust, dead insects, and other unsightly blemishes.
-Dust your blinds thoroughly. If you have curtains, take them down and wash them.
-Clean the area behind your toilet. The plumbing behind toilets acts like a magnet for dust and cobwebs. Make sure you clean this space thoroughly so it doesn’t look like your bathroom is unhygienic. The same goes for the space under your sinks.
5. Don’t leave anything behind.
Some tenants leave items behind with nothing but good intentions. You might not want to take half-full bottles of cleaning solution with you when you move out, for example, but think the next tenant will find them useful. Unfortunately, no matter how common this practice is, landlords see it as sloppy and unhygienic. If you don’t want to take something with you when you leave, either throw it out or donate it to a friend.
6. Take photographs of your job well done.
Photographs can serve as powerful proof that you cleaned your residence thoroughly, should your landlord try to insinuate otherwise.
7. Arrange to have a final walk-through with your landlord.
After you’ve cleaned your house or apartment, invite your landlord to pay a visit. Ask him or her if there’s anything that still needs tending to; this will give you a chance to correct any oversights.
If you have an especially difficult landlord, you might want to ask a professional cleaner to review the job you’ve done before you arrange a walk-through. He or she can take care of anything you’ve missed and give you insights on the kinds of flaws landlords look for in your area.
The easiest and most reliable way to ensure you get your security deposit back is to have your residence cleaned professionally. However, if you have the time and dedication required to deep clean your home or apartment, feel free to go for it. The pros will still be there to help if it doesn’t work out quite the way you planned.