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Student home renters should follow these steps for getting their security deposits back (Image via Michigan Future Inc)
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If you’re a college student renting a home, pay close attention and you might just get that security deposit back.

As a college student, renting a home can be a monumental chapter in your life. It is a powerful feeling to be able to have the freedom to wander around a house wearing nothing but boxer briefs, while letting “Sweet Caroline” fill the halls with joy.

But with such great power comes great responsibility. It is an unforgiving world and realtors, especially ones that lease houses to college students, are not afraid to make a quick buck when the opportunity presents itself.

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If you’re renting a home, there’s a lot you need to know (Image via ThatCondoGuy)

It may seem like common sense, but making sure the house doesn’t burn down to the ground isn’t as simple as you may think. Many college students who are home renters are fortunate enough to have their parents pay for some, if not all, of their monthly rent payments.

It is nothing short of a tragedy when the time finally comes (when the school year ends) and they have to explain to their parents why the security deposit will not be returning to their bank account. It’s because the lease agreement, which was clearly written and laid out for the squatters at the beginning of their tenure as renters, could not be obeyed. Here are five ways to make sure you avoid that dreaded conversation and get your security deposit back.

1. You may want to ignore the 60 pages of information, scroll to the bottom of the screen and click the “I agree to these terms and conditions” button, but you should actually take time to read through the leasing agreement.

It is amazing the things you can learn when you simply take the time to sit down and read through the leasing agreement. Unfortunately, a housing agreement is not similar to an iPhone contract; there is no simple, guaranteed $50 fix when the house gets a “scratch.”

Realtors know who they are dealing with. They know that an accumulation of minor, careless mistakes by a 20-year-old that are left until the landlord comes to do a final inspection, can equate to hundreds of extra dollars for their leasing agency.

If a “scratch” happens — and it’s going to happen — address the issue immediately. Know what the realtors will charge to fix the problem (this is typically outlined in the leasing agreement) compared to hiring a cheaper, outside option to fix the issue for the same quality of work. Otherwise, that hole that someone “mysteriously” punched into the drywall — yet doesn’t remember doing it until they wake up to a Venmo payment for $10 that reads “Congrats — you KO’d the wall with one blow” — will put a significant dent in their returned security deposit.

2. You should not let non-residents permanently park at your house for the school year in order to make extra money.

Or else a possible eviction threat notice will end up on the front door. Realtors are absolutely infuriated when renters attempt to undermine them and make money off of the property of which the landlords legally own. College students are home renters — not homeowners. It may seem tempting, especially if you have a driveway big enough to hold an extra car for a satisfying, monthly payment of $50 (parking spot prices on campus, or close to campus, are notoriously absurd), yet the temptation is not worth the risk.

Realtors will send inspectors every now and then to observe the properties they are leasing. If they see more cars than the number of residents that live in the house, they will take action, so resist the urge. Eviction results in absolutely no security deposit back and possibly a stint at the local homeless shelter if your friends are not feeling hospitable.

3. You should know who your landlord is because just simply knowing their name is not enough.

The classic saying “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer” truly applies in this context. Landlords that lease to college students can be corrupt; a college student is often nothing more than a checkbook for some realtors.

They assume that if mistakes are made, mom and dad will front the bill. Thus, they may try to make that bill higher than what it needs to be and tout it as a “service charge.”

If you not only know your landlord by name, but also familiarize yourself with them and understand the personality of the person you will be paying rent to each month, accidents may more likely be forgiven and dealt with fairly. You should make a good first impression with your landlord and not ask, “Did the family of four across the street often call the cops on the previous tenants for noise complaints?” during your first encounter.

4. You should hold every roommate accountable for their actions, including yourself.

For the lack of a better phrase, “shit happens.” You will see things you can’t un-see and things that you can’t control either.

Holding everyone accountable for their mistakes is crucial to making sure everyone gets their security deposit back. Embrace the “accidents” and do not let them cause frustration and build divides in the house.

Whether it’s a punched hole in the wall, a clogged toilet, a crack in the window from getting a little too frisky with a BB gun, a urine stain in the corner of the kitchen or a mouse problem, address the issue as a house and hold the guilty party in charge of fixing the issue — no excuses. However, if it’s a mouse problem, have fun trying to sleep peacefully at night.

5. You should thank your parents. Everyday. Maybe even twice a day.

You should not bite the hand that feeds you. If your parents contribute to your monthly rent payment, then your parents should be thanked often.

They’re paying money for another adult to use a property and more than likely do things that are not compliant with state or federal laws with, hopefully, little to no consequences for such actions. When you put it like that, parents seem like the sugar daddies of college home renters.

Parents provide love, support and a financial aid to many college students who pay monthly rent. A simple “thank you” or “I love you” text message can go a long way. It is wise to respect the great privilege that you may be given in order to gain trust from the ones that provide it because, at the end of the day, there can’t be a security deposit to get back if there’s no one to front the security deposit in the first place.

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Sam Kasierski

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hil

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