How can disputes over security deposits be avoided?

Keep copies of all rental records in one place. Showing that a tenant has the right to a return of security deposit requires preparation in advance. Start during a walk-thru just before you actually move in, even if the tenant was required to sign a lease or rental agreement that recited that the unit was in perfect condition. Make a list of the conditions in each room/area and have you and your landlord sign it. If the landlord won’t sign it, make sure you date it and give the landlord a copy. You can take pictures of the conditions before you move in so that the landlord cannot claim you damaged the items when you move out. By law, the landlord must conduct a walk-thru of the unit before you return the keys. The landlord is supposed to give a resident notice that he has the right to a “pre-move out” inspection within the last two weeks of tenancy. During the walk-thru, make a note of any complaint made by the landlord and fix/clean the problem before you turn the keys in. Take pictures of the things complained of after you fix them. Finally, after you have completely moved out, take pictures of each room/area showing the move out condition. Give the landlord a dated letter explaining what you did to fix any complaints and an address where to send your security deposit. Keep a copy of the notes and letters.

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