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Security deposit blues: get your cash back after moving out

Student Legal Services is located on East 11th Avenue and is a valuable resource for students when signing leases and trying to get their security deposit back. Credit: Nick Roll | Former Campus Editor

Nothing is worse than paying $400-$1,000 for a house you don’t yet live in. Unless you don’t get that $400 – $1,000 back after living in the house, that is.

Securing your safety deposit in full is a difficult task, depending on your living habits and landlord situation, but Ohio State’s Student Legal Services is there for help should you need it.

The best way to avoid this problem is to prepare for a problem, said Paul Wilkins, chief litigation attorney at Student Legal Services. The best defense is having solid proof that there is no reason for keeping the deposit.

“Getting your security deposit back starts when you move into the apartment. You need to do a move-in checklist and you need to take lots and lots of pictures of the house before you move in,” Wilkins said. “When you move out, you need to take a whole other set of lots and lots of pictures. So, you need to be looking very far ahead if you want to get your security deposit back.”

When your lease is up, the next step is to give your landlord written notice of a forwarding address to begin the deposit-recovery process, Wilkins said. The landlord then has 30 days to return the money.

Wilkins said keeping physical copies of all written communication between you and your landlord is incredibly important. This will help build a strong case should a dispute occur.

Even if you didn’t take photos, your case isn’t automatically lost. Wilkins assured that even without photos there are many ways to pursue getting your deposit back.

“There are other kinds of evidence besides pictures,” he said. “If family members or friends help you move in or move out, that is good evidence also.”

Student Legal Services will try to solve issues as best it can outside of court, Wilkins said. Most of the time this is the case for situations involving landlords and security-deposit disputes.

“Litigation is always the last resort,” he said. “Student Legal Services is prepared to file litigation when it is appropriate and when the client approves, and we have filed many, many cases on behalf of clients.”

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