Before you move in

To get your Security Deposit back you want to be able to show that:

  1. You paid a security deposit, and;
  2. You did not cause any damages to the apartment, house, or mobile home that you rented beyond normal wear and tear.

These are the steps you should take to make sure you can prove this.

Get a receipt or other record showing the amount of security deposit you paid

It could be important that you are able to prove that you paid a security deposit, and how much you paid. You should keep some record of this.

  • If you pay in cash, get a receipt from your landlord.
  • If you pay by check, keep a copy of the cancelled check you get in your bank statement.
  • If you pay online, keep the confirmation email, or take a screenshot and save or print the confirmation of payment.
  • If you pay with a money order or some other method, keep the receipt or ask for one from your landlord.

Make a record of the condition of the property before you move in

Just in case your landlord keeps your security deposit and says that you damaged the property, you should keep a record of the condition the property was in before you moved in. You can do this by:

  • Walking around the home and looking for any damage. You can ask your landlord to walk around with you, so they see everything, too.
  • Talking to your landlord about any damage or problems you find. Sending an email, or writing a letter and keeping a copy of it is a good way to keep a record.
  • Take pictures if you can. Save them on your phone or computer, email them to yourself, or print them out. You can hold a newspaper in the bottom corner of the picture when you take it to show when the picture was taken. Try to get the big picture – it can be hard to tell what you are looking at if you zoom in too close.
  • Make notes about any damage on your lease or rental agreement before you and your landlord sign. Or, write down the list of problems on a piece of paper, date it, and ask your landlord to sign it. Note: This could be difficult, if you don’t feel comfortable doing this, just write everything down, sign and date it yourself, and hold on to it with all of your other rental information.

Keeping a record like this will help you when you move out to tell the difference between damage that was already there and damage caused by you, your family, or your guests.

Here is an example of the kind of notes you should take:

  • Living room: torn screens in 2 windows
  • Kitchen: 1 cabinet missing handle
  • Main bedroom: damage to door – loose doorknob and cracked wood
  • Bathroom: Cracked wall tile over sink, stained floor near bathtub
  • Hallway closet: hole in the wall ~4 sq. inches


Hold on to everything you record or make notes about. Keep all of this information together in one place, like in a file folder or on your computer.


Published: August 2016

PTLA #633