Taking photos at move in, move out times can protect security deposit

By Meghan O'Kelly

Campus residences may become an afterthought for students returning to their hometowns after the spring semester, but landlords stay busy taking inventory of campus properties and determining the allocation of security deposits.

Esther Patt, coordinator of the Tenant Union, said that her biggest advice is to take detailed photos of the property at move in and move out.

“Every year, we see students with pictures that show that landlords charged them incorrectly,” Patt said. “Those are the easy cases where we can get the money back.”

Patt said students with no pictures have no evidence against a landlord who does not refund them the amount of their security deposit they think they deserve, and this is a fairly common problem.

“If you don’t have photographic proof of exactly what the inside of everything looks like at the end of the lease, the landlord can rip you off,” Patt said.

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Zach Washko, senior in FAA, thinks he has been a victim of security deposit scams on campus.

“The place looked better after we left compared to when we came in,” he said, explaining that his landlord did not return about 25 percent of the security deposit. “We cleaned it 10 times better than when we came in. They charged us because the exterior of our door was dirty. I can’t control that.”

Alicia Kuhnke, senior in LAS, said she and her three roommates each lost about 20 percent of their security deposit. She said a bar stool had to be replaced and they were also charged for carpet cleaning.

“I thought we were going to lose more than we did because I had heard a lot of horror stories,” she said. “I had heard of a lot of people getting ripped off.”

Jonathan Rojano of Campus Property Management, 303 E. Green St., Champaign, said a good tenant gets their whole deposit back, and most tenants get the whole thing. He cited painted walls and broken and dirty furniture as common problems.

“For us, they need to leave the apartment as clean as possible,” he said. “Carpet is a big reason tenants don’t get their deposit back because they always forget to get it cleaned because they’re always in a hurry to move out.”

Patt said looking closely at what was charged is important for tenants to be treated fairly. She said she has seen charges for the cleaning of two bathrooms when the apartment had only one and a fireplace cleaning when there was no fireplace.

“Some landlords are extremely careless,” Patt said. “Sometimes records get mixed up.”

Washko is confident he is going to get a more significant amount of his security deposit back this year.

“I got a lot taken my first year from stuff that wasn’t our fault and was there before,” he said. “If we had taken pictures, we could have proven that it wasn’t us.”