Taking photos may help renters reclaim security deposits

By Kate Szyszka

During the last months of leases in Campustown apartments, students begin to wonder whether they will receive their security deposits back after they move out of their apartment or how much they will get back.

Along with helping students obtain a fair leasing agreement, research complaints on landlords before renting and file landlord complaints, the University of Illinois Tenant Union works to get security deposits back if landlords keep them without reason.

Many complaints filed with the Tenant Union relate to concerns with security deposits.

“We hear from a few hundred people every year,” said Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union. “We hear from a lot of parents because many students do not want to pursue.”

The best way for renters to ensure they receive a security deposit back after moving out is to take photos of the apartment at the end of the lease, Patt said.

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“Every year photos work to get the deposit back,” Patt said.

Some tenants do their best to make sure their landlord doesn’t find reason to keep any portion of their deposit.

“We cleaned out our apartment, painted over scratches, vacuumed, basically cleaned everything,” said renter Carrie Diamond, senior in LAS.

Patt said landlords do not want students talking to the Tenant Union largely because all complaints made to the Union are recorded and accessible to potential renters through the Tenant Union.

“Sometimes all a student needs to do is say that they are talking to the Tenant Union, and the landlord gives them the money back,” said Patt.

Several campus realtors were contacted, however, they declined to comment on their protocol for returning security deposits.

“I’ve rented twice before and never had a problem with it,” said Diamond. “I’m not really worried.”

To avoid trouble with receiving a deposit back, the best thing to do is record the appearance of the apartment, said Patt.

“Photos really do need to be taken at the end of the lease,” she said.