Home » Blog » Avoid Move-out Cleaning Fees! How To Get Your Security Deposit Back!

By: Rain City Maids
Jun 07, 2021

Some doubts might arise before leaving a rental house—like getting your security deposit back! We know that moving can take most of your free time for weeks. However, giving time and attention to the house before leaving is a guarantee that your tenancy will end on good terms.

Make sure you get your deposit back! Here we tell you what a landlord can deduct from a deposit and the best practices to get it back! 

What's a security deposit?

The security deposit is a sum of money that a landlord may collect from a new tenant. The deposit is refundable, which means the landlord must return this amount of money at the end of the tenancy.

However, under certain circumstances, the landlord can deduce from the security deposits—including cleaning fees. 

Did you know? 

In Seattle, the security deposit should never exceed one month's rent. Also, the deposit amount and the possible deductions should be written in the lease agreement.

What's a cleaning fee

Can a landlord deduct a cleaning fee from my deposit? In many cases, yes. In fact, it is one of the common reasons why a landlord retains part or all of the tenant's security deposit. 

Most landlords expect you to leave the property in the same conditions as it was when you moved in, including the level of cleanliness. If the landlord considers the home is dirtier than it should be, they could deduct the cleaning fees from your security deposit.

For what reasons can a landlord keep my deposit?

As we mentioned, the reasons why a landlord can keep your deposit should be written in the rental agreement. Usually, it includes repairs, cleaning fees, utilities, or unpaid rent.

However, this doesn't mean that they can charge you $1000 for replacing a lightbulb—the deductions should always be reasonable. The landlord has 21 days after you move out from the rental unit to give you the security deposit back. Otherwise, they should give you a written list of deductions, stating why the money is being kept.

Also, the landlord can charge you repair expenses only for "property damage" and not "normal wear and tear." Rental property owners make this distinction because furnishings are expected to wear during the occupancy, without the tenant being liable for it. 

Here we tell you how to identify damage from ordinary wear.

Normal wear and tear vs. property damage

The difference between damage and normal wear depends mostly on common sense—the State law doesn't distinguish between them. However, knowing the difference between ordinary wear and property damage can help you prevent the possible deductions to your security deposit without overdoing repairments. 

Normal wear and tear is the deterioration you can't avoid as you use the fixtures, furniture, appliances, and everything in the home. On the other hand, the landlord can consider property damage if the furnishings and structure are harmed resulting from negligence or intentional acts. 

A landlord can also consider you financially liable for the damages due to lack of cleaning too.

Some examples usually considered normal wear and tear are:

  • Sun discoloration in curtains and upholstery furniture.
  • Minor stains or worn patches on carpets due to normal traffic.
  • Minor wall scratches. A few nail holes should be considered normal wear.
  • Small dents and scratches on doors.
  • Loose door handles.
  • Chipped or peeling paint due to normal deterioration. 

And these are some examples of property damage:

  • Excessive scraps, dents, and holes on any surface.
  • Broken tiles.
  • Excessive nail holes on the wall. If the landlord considers that the wall needs a coat of paint, they could also deduct the cost of the paint job.
  • Broken hinges in cabinets and doors. 
  • Water damage on carpets and furniture (due to negligence.)
  • Torn carpets, curtains, or upholstery.
  • Excessive filth or damaged appliances.
  • Also, unauthorized coats of paint and remodeling are considered damages.


The expected wear and tear depends on the time you inhabit the rental home. 

What should you do to recover your security deposit?

Check out your written agreement and your move-in checklist.

As we mentioned, in Washington, every landlord requires to write down in the lease agreement:

  • The security deposit amount
  • The reasons why they can keep the deposit or part of it. 

Besides, you should also have a move-in checklist or statement describing the rental home's condition when you moved in. Use this checklist as a guide, as you are supposed to leave the property as stated in it, plus normal wear and tear.

Did you know?

Both the checklist and rental agreement are required by Washington State law. If you don't have a copy anymore, the landlord should be able to give you another copy upon request.

Ask for a walkthrough inspection with your landlord 

The only way to know for sure what will be deducted from your deposit is with a walkthrough inspection. Ask the property manager to walk the home with you as they tell you the damages and dirty areas they can spot. This way, you are sure where you have to clean and which repairs need to be done.

Do the repairs yourself

If you have kept the property clean and in good condition, maybe most maintenance can be done by yourself. If you are going for the DIY option, you'll need a repair schedule and checklist.

However, another option is to hire a contractor yourself instead of letting the property owner do it. You can't expect your landlord to care for your budget as you would do. So it's more likely that you get a less expensive option. 

Book a move-out cleaning service in Seattle

Sometimes, a home seems dirtier once the furnishings are out. If the rental home has a deep layer of grime, it surely will need professional cleaners. The question here is who will hire them.

As we already mentioned, you can't be sure your landlord will care for your budget. Hiring yourself a move-out cleaning service can save you money.Rain City Maids wants to make your moving out process easier! We have a specific service for you! Get your quote now!

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