You’ve likely heard: The rental market in Victoria is hot right now. Finding a place to live can be stressful to say the least. When you’re competing with several others for a rental location, a good reference from a previous landlord can be the difference between getting the place you want, or not.
A key to making that happen, is to keep the relationship between landlord and tenant a positive one, especially during the most testing time in your relationship: when you – the tenant, moves out.
What’s more, you have a lot of money invested in your rental with a damage deposit. According to the BC Residential Tenancy Act, most damage deposits in British Columbia are equal to half a month’s rent. That’s no small sum, and likely you would like to get it back from your landlord, and would like to use that money to put down another damage deposit with your new landlord.
Here are a few tips to help you get your damage deposit back:
Tip #1 – Don’t Underestimate The Walk Through
Getting your damage deposit back starts when you move in, and do the initial walk through. You may be enamoured with your new place. Happy your landlord chose you. And just generally excited to move in to your new home. But don’t underestimate the importance of the initial walkthrough. This is your chance to note any and all deficiencies in the home. Your landlord is not likely to point any out, and this your chance to be paying very close attention. When doing your final walkthrough on move out, the roles are reversed and your landlord is likely to be paying very careful attention to opportunities to hold onto your damage deposit. Keep that in mind when you move in – be attentive like your landlord will be when you move out. Speak up, don’t be shy to point out even the most minor deficiencies.
Tip #2 – Check Your Contract
Read your contract carefully before signing it. But even after you’ve signed it and you’re planning to move out, be sure to read what you’ve agreed to. Your landlord may have asked you to agree to terms such as returning painted walls to their original colour. Make sure you know the rules and sort out any issues will ensure a smooth move.
Tip #3 – Educate Yourself
Remember your landlord cannot make you sign away your rights under the Residential Tenancy Act, so be sure to educate yourself on your rights. For example, while you’re always required to clean your rental on move out, you are not required under the Residential Tenancy Act to have carpets professionally cleaned if your tenancy was under one year. That said, clean carpets are one of the most often contested issues in a tenancy, and if doing so will preserve your relationship, it may very well be worth the small cost to do so to ensure you get your entire damage deposit back and preserve that relationship.
Tip #4 – Give It A Deep Clean
Regardless of what your contract says, or the Residential Tenancy Act says about cleaning, you should give the whole home a deep clean. Pay particular attention to areas you don’t immediately see such us under and behind your fridge and stove and inside your oven. Get some help from friends and family even if not specifically mentioned in your contract, go above and beyond is sure to win your landlords appreciation. You may even consider giving the windows and floors the professional touch.
Tip #5 – If It’s Broke, Fix It
Any reasonable landlord would expect some wear and tear after years of use. In fact, that term is specifically mentioned and defined in the Residential Tenancy Act. But wear and tear has its limitations, and when it goes beyond wear and tear you need to ensure it’s repaired before returning the home to the landlord. Things that are often overlooked are lightbulbs, and wall damage from moving in or out of the home. Think objectively, not emotionally and replace or fix anything that is missing or broken.
Tip #6 – Get Feedback Early
It may sound counterintuitive, but invite your landlord over a few weeks before you move out and ask them to point out areas they would be concerned with, which will give you more than enough time to address the issues. Your landlord will appreciate the extra mile, and your walkthrough on move out will be stress free.
Tip #7 – If the Worst Happens
Sad to say, some landlords haven’t educated themselves on their rights and responsibilities toward tenants, and this often results in a decline in the relationship between landlord and tenant. Under the Residential Tenancy Act, your landlord is required to get your permission to hold back, or deduct anything from your damage deposit. If they refuse to do so, your best defence is going to be a strong offence. Take photos and be sure to keep your original paperwork, especially your walkthrough on move in. Keep receipts, and be sure to file for dispute with the Residential Tenancy Office.
Most landlords are happy with a good tenant that takes care of their home, pays their rent on time, is compliant with their special requests, and returns it to them on time and in the condition they handed it to you. Others may look for an opportunity to unfairly keep your damage deposit in which case you need to know your rights. However, in this market, your rental reputation may be worth more than a fight for a few bucks.