There are many steps that should be taken when moving into and out of an apartment in order to protect yourself, ensure everything goes smoothly in the beginning and any deposits provided are returned at the end.
Moving Into Your Apartment
Make sure to ask your landlord if you need to purchase an occupancy permit. If you live anywhere outside of the city of St. Louis (i.e., in the county) you will have to obtain an occupancy permit at the local city hall before you move in. Your landlord should be able to tell you the location of the city hall you need to go to. If you do not obtain a permit, a $25 fine will be billed to both you and your landlord. Quadrangle Housing provides a listing of occupancy permit regulations for each city (also called: municipality) in St. Louis County.
There is a lot of historic housing in the residential area near the university. Thus, the electrical outlets may be old and in many buildings may only handle a few major appliances at the same time. If this is a concern for you, consult your landlord to see how many appliances your electrical outlets can handle. If you plan to use air conditioners to cool very large rooms, it is a good idea to check to see that the apartment is able to handle appliances with currents of 220 volts. Your landlord should be able to answer this question.
When you move into your apartment, try to be present during the ‘check-in’. The check-in is when the landlord inspects the apartment for damages/problems before the new tenant moves in. Whatever is noted on the check-in will not be counted against the tenant when he/she moves out. If you do not walk through with the landlord before you move in, make a list of all damages/problems with the apartment within the first week and send a copy of this to the landlord. Keep a copy of this document for your records.
Cleaning Your Apartment
Shopping for cleaning supplies can be confusing! American stores provide many different types of cleaners for almost every purpose you can imagine. This can be overwhelming so here are some hints that will simplify this process:
- Hardwood floors need to be swept every few days and lightly mopped every 7-10 days. You can either buy a specific cleaning fluid for wood floors, or use a concoction that many Americans use: a half cup of vinegar in a bucket of water. This cheap cleaning method will remove surface dirt and help keep the wax shine – which is very important to American landlords.
- Carpets should be vacuumed at least once a week. Any spill or stain should be cleaned up immediately – carpet is very expensive to replace, and if your landlord must replace the carpet after you move out, you may find yourself with a bill of several hundred dollars!
- Linoleum floors should be swept and mopped with a mild detergent and water solution, at least once per week.
- Furniture should be dusted regularly. You will see an abundance of advertisements for furniture polish. However, all you really need to do is dust furniture regularly with a soft cloth. Do not use hot water on wood furniture it will leave a stain that is worse than the spot you are trying to remove.
- Fingerprints and dirt on walls and around doors and woodwork can be removed with a solution of dishwashing liquid and water. However, there are several spray cleaners that can help remove these spots a little easier.
- Ovens and stoves are easiest to clean with oven spray cleaner. Done on a regular basis, this will keep you from having to spend a long period of time with your head in the oven when you move out!
Remember: It is easier to perform these tasks regularly than to try to undertake a massive cleaning job when you move out of your apartment. The security deposit is your money, so why give your landlord a reason to keep it for cleaning when you can easily take care of it yourself.
Moving Out of Your Apartment
When You Move Out
- Call the gas and/or electric company to have them read your meter and close your account.
- If you have a telephone, notify the telephone company to shut off service and close your account.
- Leave your forwarding address with the post office, utility companies and your landlord.
- Clean the apartment and leave keys with the landlord.
Check-Out and Obtaining Security Deposit
- Check to see if there is any damage on the walls, windows, doors, floors, furniture (if it came furnished). These are the most expensive items to repair/replace and you will be charged for any item that the landlord must either repair/replace.
- Make sure your apartment is thoroughly cleaned before you take the keys to your landlord.
- Make sure that you do a “walk-through” (check-out) with your landlord, or a representative appointed by your landlord. This walk-through will ensure that your landlord tells you exactly what (if anything) they will take out of your deposit for cleaning, replacing, or repairing portions of your apartment. (This is when your initial check-in document with all damages may be important to have available.)
* The landlord will charge you for any expenses incurred in cleaning your apartment after you have vacated the premises and this will be deducted from your deposit.
* If the charges are more than the amount of your deposit, you will either be billed or your landlord may also file a lawsuit to recover the expenses.