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How to Prepare an Apartment for Move Out: Get Your Security Deposit Back

Empty room with a broom and two packing boxes.

Moving out of an apartment is never the easiest thing in the world. Contrary to common belief, it involves much more than just packing your belongings and taking your leave. But perhaps more than anything, you have to go through the uphill task of getting your security deposit. If it’s the sizeable chunk of change it usually is, you might need it to cover your other moving expenses. Now, for this to happen, most landlords require that the apartment be left in the same state it was in when you initially moved in. Every hole and scratch or dent will be taken into account, and then deducted from the total sum. To help make the process a little less of a headache, here is a short checklist to help prepare your apartment for the big move.

1. Give the Required Notice

Before anything, you need to double-check your lease agreement and ensure that there are no hidden surprises come moving day. Confirm what is needed to get your full security deposit, who is in charge of maintenance of the house, what defines billable wear and tear, and the terms surrounding terminating your contract. Normally, if you intend to break the lease prematurely, you have to give at least 30 days’ notice on a lease agreement. And then leave before the 30 days are over. Some states require that tenants give a 60-day notice to allow the landlord to look for another tenant. If you fail to give the notice in advance, you might be billed the next month’s rent or have the security deposit withheld.

2. Settle Any Pending Balances

Make sure all rent and fees are fully paid. Often, tenants think that they’ve been religiously paying their dues out only to realize other accumulated hidden maintenance costs. In this case, your security deposit would be used to cover any outstanding fines or fees.

3. Make the Necessary Repairs

Do a thorough inspection of each room. As you do so, ask yourself: does everything work accordingly? Is there any damage? Are there any changes that will need to be reversed? In some cases, some repairs will fall on the landlord’s account. However, you’ll likely have to cater to the more deliberate ones. For instance, you might have to foot the repair bill if your pet has been gnawing on the doors or scratching walls and causing substantial damage. Ensure you check your lease for information about which obligations go beyond typical wear and tear. It is preferable to notify the management office of any issues you are aware of so they can be remedied and billed to you rather than waiting until you move out to find them.

4. Thoroughly Clean

We cannot emphasize enough the importance of cleaning out the place. If you do it right, it will create the impression that the place has been well maintained. So start by clearing out the space. This will make it easy to observe what needs cleaning and fixing.

Here’s a cleaning checklist you can follow:


  • Sweep and mop all hard tiled floors
  • Remove any spills and pet stains
  • Fix any broken tiles
  • Fix burn marks, tears, and holes in carpets and vacuum them


  • Thoroughly wash down your walls, focusing on areas above vents and heaters
  • Brush out any cobwebs from ceilings and corners
  • Removes all hooks, nails, and mounted mirrors and then patch the holes
  • Repaint any walls you’ve damaged (or call Painter Bros for the touch ups you need!)


  • Clean your windows, panes, and tracks
  • Fix any cracked or broken windows


  • Ensure your doors and their locks are functional
  • Clean the doors with a damp cloth


  • Fix any damaged appliances
  • Unblock clogged drains
  • Wipe your countertops, cabinets, and sinks. Repair or paint if needed.
  • Clean any appliances that came with the apartment


  • Get rid of any soap scum and mildew
  • Ensure the toilet works properly
  • Wipe down cabinets, tiles, shelves, and vanity mirrors
  • Once completed, the apartment should be in the best condition. You can take pictures of the rooms for your records and present the apartment for inspection to the landlord.

5. Return Your Keys and Notify Every Relevant Party

When moving day arrives, make sure to stop by the management office. Return the keys, and get a receipt to acknowledge the return. Also, make sure that you leave behind your new address or bank account details where they’ll send out your security deposit. On top of that, you might be required to submit a change of address form to your neighborhood post office. Pay your utility bill in full and let them know when you’ll be leaving the apartment. You can also move your renter’s insurance policies to the address of your new residence.

Take Away

These pointers should get you a few steps closer to getting your security deposit. Keep in mind that the procedures outlined in your contract supersede those on this apartment move-out checklist. Any specific clauses regarding moving out and the security deposit should be examined carefully. For more helpful insights or painting and construction services, you can visit our website at Painter Bros or call (844) 509-2313 and speak to schedule your painting or general contracting needs.


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