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Housing for dummies, part 4

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Don't let your money fly away!


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MAY 02, 2013

When it comes to the apartment hunt, deposits are typically something we don’t worry about until we don’t get them returned. The Clog’s got your back to make sure this doesn’t happen in the future.

So what are deposits anyway?

A deposit is what a landlord or property manager requires as an advance payment in case a renter damages the property or can’t pay their rent. First, it is important to figure out what the nature of your deposit will be: a) first and last months rent, b) security for damage to the property or c) both. In Berkeley, the deposit can be no more than twice the amount of one month’s rent for an unfurnished place or three times the rent for a furnished place.

If your deposit is worded in the lease agreement only as first and last month’s rent, that means you are paying for the first month before you move in — duh! — and then paying for the last month so you can’t skip out early without paying. When you give your 30-days notice of moving out, you’re in the clear on rent, but remember that the landlord can still charge you for the place being damaged or messy. So pay attention to the next bit of advice!

If your deposit is worded in the lease agreement only as security in case of damage — meaning if the place is not in the same condition when you move out — the cost of repairs will be deducted. Leaving the place dirty is considered damaging to the property, so cleaning fees count as a deduction. To make sure you get your security deposit back, take pictures of any stains on the carpet, holes or chipped plaster in the walls, dirt under the refrigerator or anything that your mom would definitely notice before you move in. Email these pictures to your landlord immediately and save the email on your server — you never know when you will need them later.

We repeat: No matter what, just take pictures before moving in and email them to your landlord immediately! You will thank us later. If your landlord deducts more than $125 from your deposit to make repairs or clean, definitely demand an itemized list of the repairs with copies of every invoice and receipt for the work done. They have to provide it. It’s the law!

And remember, if your roommate is doing something that you think will cost you your deposit later on, make sure to respectfully approach them with the problem. It’s easy to give the deposit to your landlord, but it’s hard to get it back.

For more information on renting ordinances and laws specific to Berkeley, click here.

Image Source: 401(K) 2013 under Creative Commons

Contact Chase Schweitzer at [email protected]

MAY 30, 2013

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