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Tips for getting your security deposit back

Contributed by Jonathan Bond, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity: 

BEFORE YOUR TENANCY

When moving in, take careful inventory of the condition of the place. Record any existing damage and check all appliances to make sure they work properly. Ask the landlord to sign and date the inventory and be sure to keep a copy.

Carefully document the condition of the unit.

  • Walk through the apartment with the landlord to record existing damages and check all appliances.
  • Take pictures before you move your things in, save a copy of the pictures,

DURING YOUR TENANCY

  • Ensure that you and your guests uphold the lease and take care not to damage the unit.
  • Report repair needs promptly.
  • Give proper notice before moving out: if you break your lease by moving out before the lease is over, you may be liable to the owner for rent until the owner can re-rent the unit.
  • Ask your landlord to do a walk-through with you 2 weeks before you move out to identify any repairs you should make to get your full deposit back.
  • Take pictures of the condition of the unit when you move out.

DISPUTING A WITHHELD DEPOSIT

If you think your landlord has wrongly withheld your deposit or you have not received a letter or deposit return in 14 days:

  • Write your landlord a letter requesting the deposit.
  • In most parts of the state, you can take your dispute to Small Claims Court. It is best to have clear, written, and photographic documentation of the unit’s condition at move in and move out.
  • If an owner willfully withholds a deposit, they can be held liable to return double the deposit amount by either Small Claims court or by a Housing Board of Review. It is up to the renter to prove willfulness.
  • If the home was in Burlington or Barre, you can file a complaint with your local Housing Board of Review: In Burlington, call 802-865-7122. In Barre, call the City Manager’s Office at 802-476-0240.

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