Students should be aware that security deposits are contracts, may not be refunded

By Nicole Ethridge

Moving in can be a daunting task no matter who you are or where you are moving.

Students start their search as early as October 1st to wait in line for sometimes over an hour to pay a lot of money for a living situation that is almost a year away. And for some students, the stress does not end there, as the security deposit they pay for the apartment has strict guidelines for return.

Christina Smedley, sophomore in LAS, tried to organize early and committed to an apartment before finding out for sure that her future roommates were completely ready to co-sign.

“I paid for all (four) of my roommates security deposits to try and get a good room early, thinking they’d refund me later. But they changed their minds and I was forced to search for two more roommates or be out 400 dollars,” Smedley said.

After a lease is signed and a security deposit paid, a tenant technically cannot get the payment back until the end of the agreement period, according to many realty company policies. In most cases, the deposit is refundable. In fact, some apartments even waive the fee during prime leasing times in order to draw in new tenants, said Tiffanie Hejmanowski, general manager of College Park Communities.

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    “My roommates and I didn’t get our deposit back after signing a lease with Barr [real estate] after we changed our minds about living there” said Adam Dhedhi, sophomore in LAS.

    His roommates and he said they wished they waited longer before putting the deposit down. They found a cheaper place two weeks after signing the original lease.

    “We were freshman and didn’t have enough time to shop around before committing. This way, we’d save more money even after losing the deposit,” he said.

    Not only is a security deposit a short-term commitment to an apartment, but it’s also an agreement to keep it in good condition. Landlords in Illinois give new tenants a condition report where they have the opportunity to state pre-existing conditions with the furnishings of the space. This is the tenant’s chance to complete a thorough inspection to prevent being charged later for previous damage.

    “We’re pretty strict about our system,” Hejmanowski said. “It’s pretty laid out though. There aren’t any surprises.”

    Cleaning is the most common cause for money being taken out of the initial deposit, she added.

    Security deposit charges can range anywhere from $100 to $200, depending on damages.

    The Tenant Union recommends taking photographs of your apartment to ensure you get back all of your money. If you decide for any reason that you want to dispute the charges, it is important not to cash the check of the apartment sends back and keep the envelope it was mailed in, according to the Tenant Union’s Web site.

    The Tenant Union, located in the Union, is a good source for prospective tenants to find information about different landlords and other students’ experiences.