When you move out you need to do what’s required so you can get your security deposit back.  You are not responsible to fix “ordinary wear and tear.”  You are responsible to fix damage you or your guests have caused.  You are also responsible to clean excess dirt and return the unit to the condition it was in when you moved in.

It’s not always easy to decide what is “ordinary wear and tear” from what is your responsibility to clean. Examples are listed below:

Examples of Ordinary Wear and Tear Landlord Must Pay For:

  • Curtains faded by sun
  • Water-stained linoleum by shower
  • Minor marks on or nicks in wall
  • Light dirt or spotting on carpet
  • Few small tack or nail holes in wall
  • Rug worn thin by normal use
  • Faded paint
  • Dark patch of ingrained soil on wood floor

Examples of Damage Tenant Must Pay For:

  • Cigarette burns on curtains or carpets  
  • Broken tiles in bathroom
  • Large marks or holes in wall
  • Door off its hinges
  • Rips in carpet or stains from pets
  • Lots of holes/gouges in walls
  • Water damage on wall from hanging plant
  • Water stains on wood floor caused by windows left open during rain

In general, keep these following things in mind:

  1. You should not be charged for damage present when you moved in.
  2. You should not be charged for replacement when repair would do.
  3. The longer you have lived in a place, the more wear and tear can be expected on things like carpets, floors, and walls.
  4. You should be charged a fair price for repairs and replacements.

To Avoid Problems, Follow These Cleaning Suggestions:


  • Clean and defrost refrigerator and freezer
  • Clean cupboards, sinks, tiles, woodwork and wall marks
  • Clean stove, hood and filter (under burners, controls, burner rings & drip pan)
  • Clean oven and broiler
  • Clean floor or, if carpeted, shampoo carpet

Living Room, Family Room and Bedroom

  • Clean carpet and drapes
  • Clean fingerprints off switches and walls
  • Clean windows on inside


  • Clean tub, sink, toilet, and medicine cabinet; clean and wax floor, or if carpeted, shampoo carpet
  • Clean cupboards, counter, woodwork and wall marks
  • Clean windows on inside


  • Mow lawn and remove trash

If you rented a furnished unit, polish furniture and spot clean upholstery.

To be sure you can prove that you cleaned you can take pictures or have a witness go through the unit with you.  The best procedure would be to have the landlord walk through with you.

Your move out is final once you have returned the keys to the landlord and given an address in writing where your security deposit can be sent.

This article is meant to give you general information and not to give you specific legal advice.Prepared by Community Legal Aid Services, Inc. Updated Feb. 2012. CE-63-F199-CLAS