Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t tell me a story about someone forfeiting a deposit or someone asking me how to get one back. Usually, it’s too late. As a property management company in Buford Georgia, we are held to some pretty high standards by the state as well as the Real Estate Commission. If you are dealing with an individual landlord in any state, they are only bound by the state. However, they are bound the Fair Housing Law. While I’m no lawyer, don’t pretend to be, or play one on TV, here are a few items you need to know before entering into a rental management lease.
First, there needs to be a Move- In Inspection. Either a walk through with the property management company or request a form and send it in with the items that were there when you moved in (stains in the carpet, burns on the counter, nail holes, and other glaring items). If you do not have one, you are accepting the property “as is”. This can create some disagreements so it is best to have one. If there is not one and you are moving out, ask to meet with the property manager or landlord and come to an agreement. Don’t move out and hope for the best. Hope isn’t a strategy.
Secondly, be sure to give proper notice. Read your lease to see what kind of notice you must give. If you do not give proper notice, your landlord may try to charge you for time after you move. If you have a lease, they may try to charge you rent for the rest of the lease term. Again, this will depend on what the lease says. Your landlord may charge you reasonable expenses for re-renting the apartment if you did not give the right notice. Many times, this will be deducted from the deposit.
Probably the best thing you can do to get your security deposit back is to fix the damages. If you have lived in the home for any period of time, a few damages are likely to incur. Just fix them. You can fix the damages cheaper than the rental management company or landlord. They have to hire someone. Don’t expect to cause damages, move out, and then haggle over what they charge to repair damages. However, your landlord or property manager cannot keep your security deposit for “normal wear and tear”. Examples of “normal wear and tear” are a worn carpet, chipped paint, worn finish on a wood floor, and faded or dingy paint. The landlord can deduct the cost of fixing damages which are beyond “normal wear and tear”. Examples of these damages are crayon art on the walls, broken windows, holes in the walls, or leaving trash or other items that have to be thrown away. If you left the home so dirty and nasty that it is unhealthy or unsafe, the landlord or property management company can deduct for the cost of making it habitable again.
Last but not least, there is a time frame that the property manager or landlord must adhere to. They must return the deposit or send you a letter within 21 days after you move out and return the key. If you have a lease, check to see what it says. If there is nothing in the lease about this, or if the lease gives more than 30 days, then your landlord has 30 days to return the deposit or send the letter. This is the legal limit.
The above recommendations are tried and proven. I have spent many days in front of a Magistrate Judge defending our procedures. I have only lost once. The very first one. I only lost because the plaintiff flat out lied in court and I didn’t have the documents to prove it. The judge even knew he was lying. Magistrate Court is not about right and wrong it’s about fairness. If you doubt me, go sit in court for a day. The judge will only make you whole.
Remember this, a reputable landlord or rental management company doesn’t want your deposit. They want the property back in rent ready condition. Give them that and you will get your deposit back with an outstanding reference.
4th Avenue Property Management is a property management company in Gwinnett County, Georgia. We offer Property Management Services specializing in rental property management in Lawrenceville, Buford, Suwanee, Sugar Hill, and Dacula Georgia. If you are currently selling or renting a home, give us a call at 770-826-2426.