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Whether your security deposit is half or 100 percent refundable, it’s often a mystery: What ensures the most money comes back to you from the building superintendent when it’s time to move out? A local property manager agreed to help us set the record straight, but only if we withheld his identity. So, enigmatic supe, what’s the deal?

1. Pay attention to the apartment condition checklist when you sign a lease. Be sure to mark any perceived damages, even small ones, to avoid being on the hook for them down the line. And if you notice anything after the fact, ask your landlord to add them to the list.

2. More often than not, security deposits are used to protect the terms of the lease. Give at least 20 days’ notice before moving out. And, it should go without saying, definitely don’t disappear in the middle of the night. That happens more often than you might think.

3. Leave the apartment as clean as when you moved in. Investing in a steam mop or a cleaning service will likely cost less than any amount taken out of the deposit for big ol’ merlot stains.

4. But don’t worry too much about normal wear and tear. Faded paint, worn carpet, and nail holes are all to be expected. Accidently rip off a shard of paint when some mounted antlers fell off the wall? Maybe pick up some spackle.  

5. Don’t leave anything behind. Yes, even the threadbare hand-me-down couch and that mistake purchase of a glass-paneled entertainment system. Someone will take it off your hands. Landlords can use portions of a security deposit to cover the cost of removing your retired furniture. 

The Landlord Speaks

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Bob Weisenbach and his wife, Jacquinot, bought a brick, mixed-use apartment building in 1976, their first of four in Capitol Hill’s the North Summit neighborhood. Their properties now house 53 apartments and four commercial units, including popular neighborhood spot Analog Coffee. There’s nothing he hasn’t seen. And he doesn’t mince words about what it means to be a landlord.

Landlords are painted like these evil guys who sit in their basements counting money, and that really bothers me. I like to have nice, well-maintained properties that are a plus for the neighborhood. I kinda dance to my own drummer.”

“My philosophy is if you keep rent reasonable, you keep tenants for three, four, five years. There’s not a lot of turnover. That’s just good business, and it’s being good to people.”

“When the bottom fell out in 2008, I wrote a letter to all my tenants saying if they were in trouble, if they lost their job, to please contact me and we would work something out. Only one tenant was having trouble making rent, but we were able to make it work for him.”

“Things were a hell of a lot simpler back in the day. Everyone says that, though. I found some old rent books that my grandmother and grandfather kept from their properties in New York back in the late ’30s. And man. Even they said things used to be simpler.”

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