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Avoid Security Deposit Disputes: Take Pictures

As a landlord, the last thing you need when tenants move out is to find nail holes, crayon marks on the walls or scuffs on the hardwood that weren’t there when they moved in. Security deposit is meant to alleviate such headaches however; there are instances when a tenant will try to get out of parting with part or all their security deposit. At such a time, you as the landlord should have covered your bases well enough so that such a tenant doesn’t leave you hanging with damages they should be paying for! One of the best ways to avoid such disputes is to take pictures of different parts of the apartment or house before the tenant moves in. This will serve as evidence in case of a dispute.

Security deposit is meant to take care of damages to a property that go beyond reasonable wear and tear. It can also be used to take care of any unpaid rent and cleaning services in case the property is not left reasonably clean by the vacating tenant. Unfortunately with vague laws to define damage and with reasonable wear and tear being subjective, sometimes trying to convince the tenant to part with their security deposit can be a headache! For example, what may be considered reasonable wear and tear in one state may be an actual damage in another. Small holes may not be considered damage in some states, same as a water-stained floor near a water source such as a bathtub.

That being said however, you as the landlord can safeguard yourself against such disputes. You can do so by carefully inspecting the property and documenting your findings preferably with pictures as well as in writing. You may also do so with video. Be sure to take close-up photos as well for clearer viewing in case of a dispute.

Take photos of different aspects of the property such as the walls, the floors, the ceiling, and any fixtures and appliances that may be present and note down what is present and in what condition it is in. You should then provide copies of the documented proof to the tenant and ideally have them sign a copy to show that they agree with the findings. When the tenant moves out, you should again take photos of the unit or property to gauge any damages that may require sorting. In case the damage goes beyond reasonable wear and tear then the cost for repair should be deducted from the security deposit.

While taking the photos, please ensure that they are date-stamped. This way, there is no wiggle room when the dispute arises. Since different states call for different inspection laws, be sure to have a clear understanding of your state’s law. Generally speaking though, notification to the tenants regarding the time and date for the final inspection should be given and it should ideally occur within three business days following the expiry of the lease.
There are a number of ways to avoid security deposit disputes some of which include:

-Avoid taking more than the required deductions for the damage. For example, you should not include reasonable wear and tear in the deductions. In case the tenant wins the case against a landlord taking more than they should then the landlord may end u paying the tenant instead!

– Be exact while coming up with the deductions for the damage cause. Don’t estimate costs as this may end up harming you.

-Photos and documented proof of the unit or property should be taken in the presence of the tenant and ideally a witness before the move-in. The same applies during the move-out.

-Perform routine inspections of the property but remember to provide the tenant with adequate notice before carrying out your inspections
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-In case you have to deduct from the security deposit, be sure to keep receipts of whatever it is you have bought, replaced or repaired. This will give you and the tenant documented proof of what has to be deducted from the security deposit.

Last but not least, when you have to deduct from the security deposit, be sure to let the tenant know and where need be, provide them with the documented proof. You should be clear on exactly how much will be deducted from the deposit and why.