I take very seriously my responsibility to be fair and reasonable about charges out of a security deposit.
One important document for a new tenancy that helps this effort is a “move-in condition report sheet.” At the start of a lease I meet the tenant at the property and we walk through together to document the condition. I show them how I would log issues in one room and then I leave the form with them to complete and turn in to me in a week after they’ve moved in.
I look over these documents very carefully to identify maintenance issues and I query the new tenants to get more information on issues they listed if I don’t understand. I make notes on the document and then I scan it and email it to the renter so that they can confirm my notes. Then this document sits in the lease file until they move, at which time it’s our guide for assessing whether any new damages exist.
Any time there are charges out of a security deposit I provide a receipt from the vendor who did the work. I never mark up any vendor bills—ever in any circumstance. The only time I would not provide an untampered-with, authentic invoice for actual charges taken out of a deposit is in the case when I pay new tenants to clean what the previous renters didn’t clean (which I do if there’s not a lot of cleaning to do, otherwise I hire a professional cleaner), or if I charge departed renters for standard things such as $5 for a light bulb, $5 for a key not returned, things like that.
Many renters have legitimate concerns that a given landlord or manager will take out unfair charges from their security deposit. I like to educate renters that Colorado has a law that states if a landlord retains any amount that is not justifiable, a tenant who wins in small claims court could be awarded triple the erroneously withheld amount as a remedy.