Understanding the Security Deposit as an Atlanta Tenant

At Specialized Property Management, we hope you have enjoyed your time in one of the Atlanta rental properties that we manage. We’ve enjoyed having you as a tenant.

Now that you’ve arrived at the end of your lease term and you’re moving out of your Atlanta home, we imagine you have some questions about your security deposit. Most tenants want to know when they will have it returned to them, and how they can be sure to get the full deposit back.

As always, we are here to help.

You paid a security deposit when you signed the lease and agreed to move into your home. This was one of the first parts of your leasing process. When you paid your security deposit, we took some time to talk about what we expected from you as a tenant. If you moved in with any pets, we also collected an additional deposit or fee for each pet.

According to Georgia law, your security deposit is fully refundable at the end of the tenancy. Landlords and property managers hold onto these deposits in escrow during the time that you’re living in the property. It provides us with a little bit of risk management in case the property is damaged or a tenant stops paying rent.

Today, we want to explain how the security deposit return process works in Atlanta, and how you can make sure you return the property to us in the same condition that it was when you took possession. This is the best way to ensure you receive your full deposit back.

How Specialized Property Management Uses a Tenant’s Security Deposit

Tenants are not responsible for the normal wear and tear that might occur at the property. It’s pretty common that regular wear will happen no matter who lives in a property, and you won’t face security deposit charges for things like nail holes in the walls or scuff marks from furniture. Good property managers and most landlords will expect this type of wear and tear, and ultimately it’s the property owner who is responsible for the repairs.

Damages will be your responsibility. These are more serious issues than general wear and tear, and tenants must be held accountable for any damage to the property. Our lease agreement, which we get from the National Association of Realtors, defines normal wear and tear as a deterioration that occurs without negligence, carelessness, accident, or abuse. We gave you an inventory and condition form to document the property condition when you moved in. That was your opportunity to note any damage or systems that weren’t working. We asked you to take photos and submit a maintenance request so we could get repairs completed.

When it’s time to move out, we will take a look at this form and any photos. We’ll compare the condition then to the condition now. Then, we do an independent move-out assessment, without the resident or the owner present to ensure that we create an impartial report.

Our deposit itemization form allows us to deduct repair costs from your security deposit when they are applicable. The law allows us to withhold any additional security deposit funds for financial obligations including:

  • Unpaid rent balances on your account.
  • Keys remotes that were not returned, or other missing devices that belong to the property.
  • Accelerated rent (in the event of a lease breach).
  • Costs to remove any personal belongings left behind in the property.

What Tenants Can Do to Receive a Full Refund

We know you want to get your full security deposit back after you move out. We want to give you your full deposit back, and it’s also important that we avoid misunderstandings and disputes. So, we’ve created a checklist that you can use to ensure you’ve done everything you possibly can. In order to receive your deposit in full, you must meet all of the lease requirements including but not limited to the following:

  • Provide the property notice that you’re moving out. This will be a 30-day advanced written notice. It’s listed in your lease, and you have not begun the move-out process until you give your notice and that notice period has passed.
  • Be sure the property is move-in ready for the next residents. The home must be completely ready to be occupied outside of normal wear and tear.
  • Professionally clean the carpets. We require documentation which can be a receipt from the cleaning company.
  • Completely vacate the property. Don’t make the mistake of leaving trash or belongings behind. You need to clear the home of all personal items, even if they’re unwanted. When you leave things behind, they become our property. We will charge you for the cost of removing those items.
  • Completely clean the property. This should include scrubbing appliances, bathrooms, kitchen surfaces, windows, etc. We want to see a thorough cleaning that brings the property into a state of cleanliness that matches the home when you moved in.
  • Replace any burned out light bulbs and dirty air conditioning filters.
  • If you painted the walls a different color, you are required to return them to the original color and paint quality before you move out. Any other changes you made to the property should be taken care of. We want the home to look the way it did when you moved in, and we’ll use our photographs to confirm that everything is the same.

If you’re unsure about whether or not you have fulfilled any of these steps, make sure you contact us. Many tenants hire professional cleaners to ensure the home is left in a condition that’s acceptable. And we are more than willing to provide some additional direction and help you make decisions that will lead to a full security deposit refund.

When Can You Expect Your Security Deposit?

calendar - thumbnailWe have to follow Georgia state law when it comes to returning your security deposit in a timely manner. So, it’s important to follow our process and help us get the deposit back to you promptly. On the day you move out, please hand over your keys and new address to our office. Leaving your address is important because we cannot send you the security deposit if you don’t tell us where you’ll be receiving mail.

According to Georgia law, we must refund your security deposit within one month of your departure. Typically, we can complete the move out process and refund the security deposit in less than a month.

After you move out, we do a full assessment and compare the results to the inspection we conducted at move-in. We will make deductions for damage, even damage that was accidental. We understand that you might not have meant to break something, but it’s still your responsibility to pay for it. Sometimes tenants will unintentionally break a window or crack a door. You are required to pay for those repair costs.

If you’re going to get your full security deposit back, you can expect it within 30 days. If we do have to make deductions for damage, we will send you whatever is left of your security deposit within those 30 days, with a complete itemized list of the deductions that were made. You’ll always know how much we kept and exactly what it was used for.

When we have to make deductions, your security deposit will almost always cover the cost of repairs. It’s rare that so much damage is left behind that the entire deposit is used. However, if deductions do happen to exceed the amount of the security deposit we are holding, you will have 10 days from the date of the deposit itemization to pay the balance. If you don’t pay this, we may turn the debt over to a professional collection agency.

If you paid a pet deposit, you might think that you’re entitled to receive that deposit back before your lease is over. When your pet dies or moves in with someone else, you might think you can get your deposit back. However, we are not allowed to do that. Even if you lose your pet a month into the lease, we need to hold the deposit until you move out. We will include your pet deposit with the security deposit and the itemization when you leave.

We can never allow tenants to use the security deposit to pay for the last month of rent. This is considered a breach of the lease, and if you try to do it, we will have to treat it as a lease violation, and it may result in additional charges. You are not legally permitted to use your security deposit for a rental payment.

Moving out of a rental property can be a stressful process, but we will do whatever we can to ensure your questions are answered and your security deposit is returned.

If you need help while you’re moving out or you have questions about your security deposit, please contact us at Specialized Property Management in Atlanta. We hope you have enjoyed your stay with us, and we wish you the best in the future.

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