Getting Your Deposit Back

    Researchers in psychology have determined that next to the loss of a spouse or child, making a move produces the highest stress in an individual.  No wonder that as a tenant nears the end of the lease, there is a different set of dynamics than any other time during the lease. Other than trying to vacate by the moveout date, the biggest concern most tenants have is if they are going to get their deposit back.

    The short answer is that if the tenant is in compliance with the lease, the tenant is entitled to all of the deposit, less any previously agreed deductions (such as professional carpet cleaning) and less any outstanding balances for rent, repairs, and charges to make the unit ready for the next tenant.

    The long answer (and the more accurate answer) is found in the lease terms, which include the landlord's rules and regulations.

    In addition to checking the move-in inventory and condition form, tenants should reread the lease in preparation for moveout.  If they don't follow the agreement they signed, they might incur otherwise unnecessary charges and other unwanted surprises.

    For example, utilities should be left on until after checkout has been completed.  If the landlord has to turn on utilities because the tenant had them turned off prior to checkout, then the tenant will be charged the cost of putting the utilities in the landlord's name, plus the fee agreed in the lease to get them turned on.

    Checkout is done during normal working hours after the property has been vacated.   The landlord first compares the condition of the property with the move-in inventory and condition form and any pictures taken prior to move-in, then determines if any items need to be addressed.  This part of the process is slow and methodical, often taking hours if it's necessary to compare pictures back at the office.   

   The tenant may, but need not be present during checkout.  We make no verbal agreements during checkout and the tenant should not expect any deposit return at that time.  Our policy is for deposit terms to be in writing before any deposits are returned, even when the full deposit is being returned.   Although Texas law gives the landlord 30 days to refund any deposit, we have no desire to prolong the process.   We try to have the deposit returned within two weeks, and we really hope it will be much sooner.  Even when the property has pretty much been made ready by the vacating tenant, sometimes it's still necessary to call in service people to correct or finish items that were the responsibility of the tenant.   After we are satisfied that we won't have to seek reimbursement from the tenant for items they should have taken care of, we will release any remaining deposit if we have a forwarding address.

    Leases contain particular agreements relating to the last thirty days of the lease that are different from the rest of the lease term. For example, a tenant may be required to keep the grass greener during the lease marketing time.  During the last thirty days,  the property is available for showing by licensed Realtors, and the tenant should expect phone calls for showing appointments during the day and early evening.

    Sometimes the lease calls for work to be done professionally, such as cleaning the carpet at moveout.  Even if the tenant has mostly cleaned to the professional standards we require, if something has been missed such as not cleaning light fixtures, ceiling fans, or blinds, professionals most often have a minimum charge that gets passed on to the tenant. Those minimum charges can be as much as a whole cleaning because they pretty much do a whole cleaning to ensure they don't have to be called back. Because moving adds so much stress to one's life, and because making the property ready for the next tenant is strictly enforced, often it's simply better for the tenant to hire professionals.  Following are providers who do a fine job, and who we've found to be quite reasonable in their charges.  House cleaners typically don't do carpet cleaning and windows, so those are listed separately.

House Cleaners- Nelly Medina 512-413-3572 
Strictly Steam  Carpet Cleaning 512-517-9967
Sunn Window Cleaning 444-5505, 970-1525 
Orsack Lawn Service 512-736-9906

  Stanberry & Associates has operated as a real estate brokerage firm licensed
in the State of Texas since 1985.

Tom Polk is a real estate broker licensed in the State of Texas.