Help me handle my finances during my last month in apartment
August 3, 2009 10:01 AM   Subscribe

Can I persuade my landlord to let me use my security deposit for my last month's rent? If not, what's my next best option? ( I'm dealing with paying my credit card bills too.)

My lease is up on 8/31 and I'm broke. (I'm moving home with my parents to save money.) I have about $1000. That's about how much my rent is. My security deposit was a month and a half's rent. My apartment is in good condition, and with the exception of being a few days late with the rent a couple times, I think I've been a pretty good renter. (Lived here 2 years.)

My problem is that I am also behind on a bunch of (small) credit card bills. Also about $1000 worth of needs-to-be-paid-asap type stuff. So, right now I can either pay my rent and wait and pay the credit cards over the next 1-2 months. (I have a crappy p/t job and I'm trying to find a better one, but til then . . . ) Or, I can try to convince my landlord to let me use the deposit, and put my $1000 towards my credit cards. (I know, I know, being in credit card debt is a whole other story, but I'm moving home so I can work and save money and pay them off.)

I think it would be better for me to pay the credit cards and try to negotiate about my rent, simply because the cards will ruin my credit a lot more if I'm late on them. If I'm lucky my landlord will agree to taking my deposit for August rent. If he won't, and I just don't pay it, I'm afraid of legal action or ruining my rental history.

I tried to google for the answer and the impression I got was that using the deposit for last month's rent is generally something that you can't do, but people try to do it anyway- sometimes by talking to their landlord, and sometimes by simply not paying the last month's rent. (I live in IL, if that matters.)

So my question is- what is the best way to persuade my landlord to let me do this? If he says no, then what? How bad are those 'over-30-day' hits on your credit report? (I'm not about to be sent to collections, but I think I have gone over/will soon go over 30 days on some of them.)
posted by lblair to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not trying to be condescending or anything, but are you sure you haven't already paid it? Assuming you have a traditional lease, it's pretty universal for landlords to collect first and last month's rent before you move in-- definitely much more common than a security deposit.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:03 AM on August 3, 2009

It depends entirely on your relationship with your landlord. Call him up and explain the situation. Offer to let him inspect the apartment now, before you move out, to see there's no significant damage. Consider asking to only use some of the security deposit: two of the six weeks, for instance.

Also what oinopaponton said; it's not uncommon for renters to pay both last month's rent and a security deposit. Are you sure all month and a half's rent is a security deposit? That's an awful lot, maybe some was understood to be last month's rent.
posted by Nelson at 10:06 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I was wondering that too. I actually did not pay it, my then-boyfriend did. (I know, I know.) When he moved out he signed some thing forfeiting the deposit to me. So although it's 'mine' now I really don't know exactly what it was when he paid it. I was trying to remember and although I've also had apartments where I paid the last month's rent in advance, I am fairly certain this wasn't the case. Obviously, that will be the first thing I ask my landlord when I go try to talk to him. Since I think the answer will be no, though, I want to be prepared with my next best argument.

Although I guess that could be a good premise to make my argument. Go in to see whether the last months rent is paid or not, and if they say no, then I beg for their mercy.
posted by lblair at 10:11 AM on August 3, 2009

it's pretty universal for landlords to collect first and last month's rent before you move in-- definitely much more common than a security deposit.

I disagree that this is universal. The norms are quite different by geographic location.
posted by grouse at 10:17 AM on August 3, 2009 [9 favorites]

If he won't, why not ask to borrow the money from your parents for the period of time between when he wants the rent and when you get the security deposit back? It seems like you're saying "since the money is roughly equivalent, can you just not give me the deposit back and I won't pay you rent?", but it seems like you could just do this on your own.
posted by jgunsch at 10:17 AM on August 3, 2009

Response by poster: Re: asking my parents.

Well, I learned my poor financial habits from somewhere . . . they are as broke as me. Unfortunately, I've already tapped that resource as much as I can at the moment.
posted by lblair at 10:24 AM on August 3, 2009

Do you know your landlord or is it a big company? When I rented from someone I had an actual in person relationship this was easy to workout and what not because it was an arrangement between two people in person. This is much harder to do with a company since you might be dealing with people who don't have the authority to make these kinds of decisions.

In any case, I recommend talking to them earlier rather than sooner and be friendly. Good luck.
posted by mmascolino at 10:29 AM on August 3, 2009

From the landlord's perspective, it can be pretty uncomfortable having someone living on your property who has no financial accountability. In my experience, not having a deposit on hold doesn't mean huge damages, it means that those last bags of trash and the old trunk that won't fit in the car end up getting left behind. The friends who help with the moving leave a couple of empty six packs and cigarette butts scattered around.

Having the phone number of the tenants parents, and perhaps even calling them to enlist their reassurance, is something I've done before advancing the deposit back.
posted by StickyCarpet at 10:29 AM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Also, stress the fact that your deposit is 1.5x your rent, not just a month's rent. Even if the landlord agrees to apply that deposit to your last month's rent, they still have something to hold over you if you don't take out the trash on the last day, etc.
posted by craven_morhead at 10:54 AM on August 3, 2009

If I were you I might mention the possibility of the landlord doing a walkthrough at this point so he can see the place isn't totally trashed and that he probably isn't going to wish that he had kept that extra $1000 to pay for damages after you move out. But yeah nthing that it depends a lot on your relationship with your landlord and it probably doesn't hurt to ask nicely and see what happens.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:48 AM on August 3, 2009

I am a landlord.

Frankly, the number of tenants who do this as a matter of course is pretty high. The thing is, you have very little hold over them at that point. They're moving out, they have no lease, they are not paying rent, so an eviction is pointless until they overstay the end of the lease. Unfortunately, it's also very common for them to do this when there's a lot of damage above and beyond wear-and-tear.

I guess what I'm saying is, if you expect to get your deposit back anyway, just don't pay the last month without saying anything. The soonest they could get you into housing court is after you'll be gone, after all. You'd need to be served and everything and only after the judicial order of eviction could anything happen to you or your stuff.

On the other hand, this will probably encourage the landlord to charge as much as possible against the remainder of your deposit. So there's that.

But very likely, nothing will happen.
posted by dhartung at 12:53 PM on August 3, 2009

I don't know your location, but in many places the deposit is kept in a special escrow account where it stays until move out. It may not be an option for them to allow you to do this as a pre-arranged set-up. I would check with your local tenants council. They would know the laws in your area, as to whether that is even a possibility for them to allow. If not, you can always try what dhartung said.
posted by ishotjr at 3:01 PM on August 3, 2009

Provided you intend on moving out for that month? Then it would make no difference to them. The place is not trashed so your deposit would be returned. The rent is paid out and so the lease is still honoured. And at absolute worst it also offers a 4 week bonus in between tenants.

Instead of presenting it as money troubles and you trying to get the hell out of dodge I would be careful how I said it. "Give me my deposit back otherwise I can't pay my rent." Sounds totally different to "Hi, would I be able to schedule an inspection for my apartment? That's true, but something unfortunate has come up and I wish have the inspection completed, my final month and any monies owed paid up and my lease finalized before I go." Of course waiting until you pass the inspection and then broaching the subject of using that money to pay them.

Reasonable people who appear to trying to do something responsible and all you need to do is say yes have a good chance. People that are crap with money and want you to give them some and agree to this whole thing... have no chance.
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 3:36 PM on August 3, 2009

dhartung has it ABSOLUTELY CORRECT.

If you suspect landlord/management company is a bit shady or hard up for cash lately - just say nothing and leave. Let them keep the remainder. Take pics and leave the place absolutely SPOTLESS. Including the stove, the refrigerator, the floors, the windows.

If you have had GREAT communication with the landlord over the years... you could try calling them (in-person is better) and plead your case. The problem here is they might bullshit you around. For example, why don't you have your own copy of the lease? Also, in most states landlords must acknowledge yearly the amount on deposit + and interest accrued.

I still opt for saying nothing and leaving the place spotless. Then send them a return receipt letter with the keys and a forwarding address for any deposit monies owed. Take pics. Leave the place spotless.

If any leftover funds are returned... bonus;)
posted by jbenben at 4:19 PM on August 3, 2009

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