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Q: I live off-post and want to recover as much of my security deposit as possible when I move out. What should I know?
A: Hopefully, you secured your housing with a Housing Services Offices contract. It defines your rent payment, security deposit and your repair obligations.
A security deposit is typically paid upon move-in. The HSO contract requires the landlord to deposit your money into an interest bearing account. The account must be separate from the landlord’s other funds. Upon moving out, you are entitled to your deposit and its accrued interest, minus any damages.
Be meticulous during your move-in inspection: note every scratch, ding and chip on the inspection sheet, and get date-stamped photos of the damage. Save the photos in a safe place, and give a copy to your landlord. The landlord can withhold part or all of your security deposit if he/she can claim you damaged the property beyond what is allowed in the HSO contract.
The HSO contract dictates the tenant as liable for damage exceeding normal wear and tear, as well as which party is responsible for minor repairs, usually the tenant. Problems arise when parties disagree about what is “normal wear and tear.” The American interpretation of “normal wear and tear” is vastly different than the German interpretation.
To reduce any future discrepancies, inform your landlord promptly of any needed repairs immediately in writing. If the landlord refuses to fix the problem, contact the Housing Office for assistance. If, however, you know there is a problem and you do nothing, you are responsible for all damages resulting from neglect to repair.
When it’s time to relocate, schedule a pre-inspection with the landlord. Often, this meeting will reveal several smaller problems that you can fix or hire someone to fix inexpensively. If you wait until the final inspection, the landlord may have the property cleaned and repaired at a higher cost. It will be more difficult, though not impossible, for the landlord to claim damages at the final inspection if he/she did not mention them at the pre-inspection.
Lastly, if you did not attend the course on landlord/tenant issues when you in-processed, or if you could use a refresher, contact the Central Processing Facility on Panzer Kaserne (431-2599/civ. 07031-15-2599) to attend the next course.
This column is not intended as individual or specific legal advice. If you have specific issues or concerns, you should consult a judge advocate at 421-4152/civ. 0711-729-4152.