The time has finally arrived – you are ready to move from your current apartment. Remember that security deposit you handed over oh-so-long ago, when you moved in? Here are some steps you can take to make sure you get it back. (After all, that money will come in handy as you move on to your new place.)
Hopefully, you took lots of pictures of your apartment before you moved in. If you didn't, keep it in mind for next time. Snap photos of every room while it is still empty – this way you have a visual reminder of the space when it was handed over to you. (You should have had a walk-through, as well, documenting any problems before moving in.) As you clean and repair, the goal is to get it looking as good (or better) as it did on move-in day.
The walls: Make sure there are no scuff marks, dings, or holes in the walls. Take down any pictures and use spackle to fill in the holes. Sand over the spots to make sure they are smooth with the wall. If you want, you can use the same color paint to touch up. Or, if you painted the apartment on the condition that you would return it to its original color when you moved out, now is the time to repaint.
The floors: Give your (carpeted) floors a thorough vacuuming. Unless you see obvious stains on the carpet or if you have pets, you won't need to rent a steam-cleaner or hire professional carpet cleaners – a basic vacuum should do the trick. If you do see stains or have pets, you may want to rent a carpet cleaner from the local home improvement store or call in the professionals. Be sure to sweep and mop linoleum or tile and check for any tears/cracks.
The kitchen: Clean the refrigerator, freezer, and the stove. Remove the shelves and drawers from the fridge and wash them with warm, soapy water. Wipe down the inside of the fridge before replacing the drawers and shelves. Clean the oven with oven cleaner. Be sure to follow the directions on the can carefully, and don't forget about the grates and broiler pan. Clean the stovetop and the overhead hood. Pay attention to the undersides of cabinets near the stove, as well – grease from cooking tends to collect in these areas and will need to be cleaned. Don't forget the sink – be sure to remove any stains. (If you don't want to use harsh cleaners, baking soda works well, mixed with a little sea salt, to scrub away tough stains – make sure the sink is fairly dry before applying.)
The bathroom(s): Clean the bathrooms, paying extra attention to the shower and tub – remove any buildup and check for mildew/mold. Clean out under the sink and any cabinets, and wipe them down with warm, soapy water. Don't forget to clean the mirrors.
The windows: You'll want to make sure the windows and sliding glass doors are clean and in good shape. Wipe down the blinds to remove dust, checking for any broken blinds that might need to be replaced. Clean the window sills and remove any cobwebs or dirt from the insides of the windows. Check the screens for any holes or damage.
The closets: Once everything is moved out, check again to make sure you didn't leave anything behind – your apartment should be completely empty. Don't forget the top shelves in closets, the backs of drawers, and under the sinks. Throw out anything you don't plan to take with you.
Now that you've cleaned your apartment, take pictures again and consider scheduling a walk-through with your apartment manager. Keep the pictures as proof that your apartment was in top condition when you moved out – just in case there's an issue with your security deposit.
Don't forget to call and have any utilities in your name turned off the day after your move (don't have them shut off on moving day or you could find yourself moving boxes in the dark), and be sure to collect all of the keys to your apartment and turn them in to your apartment manager before leaving.