How Can I Make Sure of Getting My Rental Deposit Back When I Move Out?

Authored By: Iowa Legal Aid LSC Funded
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(Section 562A.12(3) and (4), Code of Iowa)

Here are some tips on protecting your rental deposit:

  • Get a receipt when the deposit is delivered to the landlord. The receipt should say it is for a rental deposit, and should say the amount and the date received.
  • Make a list of any damages already there when you move in. This list should be made right when you first move in, or before. The landlord should help you make the list if possible, and it is a good idea to have a friend of yours there, too, as a witness for later. It's best if the landlord and tenant sign the list, and each keep a copy.
  • Tell the landlord about damages which occur while you're renting there. The landlord should be informed right away, in writing if possible. The cause of the damages should be explained. Remember that the tenant is responsible only if the tenant is somehow at fault.
  • Give the proper notice when you want to move out, and keep a copy of it for your records.

Give the landlord a mailing address at the time you move out, or before. This can be your new address, or the address of a friend -- wherever you want your deposit sent.
Give the address to the landlord in writing, and keep a dated copy of the paper you give the landlord, for your own records. If no mailing address is given to the landlord within one year, the tenant loses the right to get any of the deposit back. (A TIP: If you're moving a long ways away, you may want to give the landlord the address of a trusted local friend to send the deposit to. Some landlords might be tempted to keep the deposit unfairly if they think it is going to be too inconvenient for you to take them to small claims court.)

Put the place back in shape when you move out. This means removing the trash and leaving the house or apartment in the same condition it was in when you moved in or better. Of course, normal wear and tear is permitted, and need not be fixed or restored.

Arrange a meeting with the landlord at the time you move out. Go through the checklist you made when you moved into the apartment. Try to get your landlord to say whether you are going to be charged for any damages, cleaning, or whatever. That way you may be able to fix whatever problem there is while you're still in a good position to do so. If the landlord can state no reason for keeping part or all of the deposit, try to get the deposit back at this meeting.

Take pictures of the home right before you leave. A picture is really worth 1,000 words in most cases.

Any tenant with problems involving an eviction, or other landlord/tenant law questions should see an attorney for advice. To find out the number of the Iowa Legal Aid office serving your area, call 1-800-532-1275. You also may find useful information in other articles posted on this Iowa Legal Aid website.

Last Review and Update: Dec 27, 2007

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