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No matter how careful you are with your records, a tenant can still sue you over the return of a security deposit.  You can minimize the chance that you’ll have to go to court to haggle over back rent, cleaning costs and damage to your rental property by taking these four steps:

1: Review Texas laws for returning deposits

Texas gives landlords 30 days to itemize and return a tenant’s security deposit.  Put your itemization in writing and state how much you have applied toward back rent, cleaning costs and damage repair, along with how much a tenant can expect to receive in return.

2: Prepare a move-out letter

When a tenant gives you notice that they are ending tenancy, prepare a move-out letter that clearly and specifically states:

  • the exact condition in which you expect your unit to be left
  • your final inspection procedures
  • the kind of security deposit deductions you can make
  • where and how a tenant should return keys
  • when and how you will send any refund that is due

3: Inspect the unit

To minimize disputes, do your final walk-through alongside the tenant rather than by yourself.  Also be sure to use some kind of inventory or landlord-tenant checklist when the tenant moved in so that you can compare the condition of the rental at the start and end of the tenancy.

It’s also smart to photograph or videotape the premises so that you have visual proof of what the unit looked like when the tenant moved out.  Ideally, you’ll also have done this before the tenant moved in so you can see any important differences.

4: Create an itemized deduction statement

After you’ve inspected the unit, prepare an itemized list of deductions for cleaning, repairs, back rent or other financial obligations required under your rental agreement. List each item, for example, a dirty carpet or damaged kitchen appliance, and the dollar amount of the deduction.  You may also wish to attach receipts, especially if you’ve already seen to the necessary repairs and/or replacements.

There’s no doubt about it: conscientious landlording takes time and effort.  That’s where the experts at Herman Boswell come in.  We’re here to help you manage your property investments and give you the peace of mind you deserve.  Contact us today!