Security deposits are almost always required when you sign a lease. These amounts vary by apartment, but they are intended to pay for any damages you inflict during the term of the lease. A landlord cannot deduct from your security deposit for normal wear and tear. The law states that a security deposit must be returned within thirty days of move out. The Austin Tenant's Council has some helpful tips for how to be sure you get your entire security deposit back under Texas Law.
First, when you first move in, you should conduct a move-in inventory inspection. Disagreements between the landlord and the tenant over the condition of the apartment at move-in often arise, so it's best to prevent this from happening. When you first move in, make a list of everything that is broken, stained, defective or damaged. Both you and your landlord should sign the list. If the landlord refuses, be sure to document everything with pictures and video or ask a witness to view the apartment with you. Send a copy of your list to your landlord and keep a copy for your records.
About three months before you plan to move out, check your lease to see how much written notice is required. Tenants usually have to notify the landlord of their intent to move out in writing 30 to 60 days in advance to get their security deposit back. Texas Property Code allows landlords to keep the deposit if the required advance notice is properly noted in the lease and not given.
When you are getting ready to move, you should clean your apartment and ask your landlord to do a move-out inventory inspection with you. The tenant should do another inventory form, like the move-in inventory. If the landlord doesn't agree with what the tenant has written, that should be negotiated at the time of the move-out walk-through. Even if the landlord can't do a walk-through, tenants should still make an inventory list and ask a friend to be a witness to what condition the apartment is in. Videos and pictures are excellent further proof of condition if the landlord is not present or will not sign a move out inventory. The inventory lists could be used as evidence if you end up in court with your landlord.
Finally, be sure to turn in your keys on the same day you leave your apartment. If the keys aren't turned in then, your landlord may charge you more rent or other punitive charges. If you follow all these rules, you should find yourself with your security deposit back in your pocket and ready to be used at your next abode!