The first most important step to getting your rental deposit back is to take good care of the home you live in. When you move make sure it is the same or better condition as it was when you moved in. If you provided your landlord with written notice of your forwarding address before you left your apartment, then you will be in a good position. Ohio Law requires that landlords must return the security deposits of their tenants, minus proper deductions, within 30 days of the termination of the tenancy and the return of the apartment to the landlord if the landlord has received the tenant’s forwarding address in writing. If the landlord violates this section by wrongfully keeping the deposit for more than thirty days, then the tenant is entitled to double damages and attorneys fees in a court of law.
If you cannot show that you gave written notice of the forwarding address to the landlord, then your limited to recovering only the wrongfully withheld portion of the deposit. No double damages, no attorney fees. Much depends upon the steps you take when you move out. Can you prove that your landlord got notice in writing of your forwarding address?
Do you have any proof that you left the apartment in good condition? First, before you move in, you need to videotape the condition of your apartment or at least photograph the apartment’s condition. Get a copy of that days newspaper and show the video camera the headline date at the start and finish of the tape (do this even though the camera automatically records the time the tape was made).
If you are taking photos, have the newspaper in the background of the photos and keep the paper in case you ever have to go to court.
You need to be very detailed. In each room, follow a specific path, e.g., floors, walls, ceilings, closets, appliances, cabinets, etc. Turn on and off lights, fixtures, and appliances to show that they work or do not work. Open and close windows. Videotape the interior of refrigerators and stoves to show how clean or dirty they are. Also consider completing a move-in checklist and keeping a copy for yourself. After you have moved out and cleaned your apartment, you need to make another videotape of how you returned the apartment to the landlord. Follow the same detailed steps above.
Also complete a move-out checklist. Consider hiring a professional cleaning service to clean up or rent a rug cleaner. Keep the receipts if you do. If you didn’t make a move in tape, don’t make the same mistake again by failing to make a move out tape.
Finally, make sure you return the keys on time. Bring a friend with you to witness that you returned the keys. If you need to be out of your apartment on June 30, don’t return the keys on July 1. You would owe for July also. Make sure that you can prove you sent the landlord written notice of your forwarding address for the return of the security deposit. Have all of your roommates sign off on this letter so that the landlord knows that everyone wants the deposit sent to the same address. Send the notice by certified mail, return receipt requested and keep a photocopy so that you can prove the landlord signed for the thing. If your certified mail comes back unclaimed or refused, then send it out registered mail and keep the payment receipt for that too.
Think about these issues before you move out to put yourself in the best possible position to get back your deposit, as well as double damages and attorney fees.