The tenant – landlord relationship can be a tricky one at best, especially when it comes to giving that security deposit back. The return success of your security deposit depends a lot on the early days, just before you moved in, ensuring you create the cleanest of slates you can.  

Did you and your landlord give the attention that is needed to ensure a smoother transition from one rental unit to the next?

1. The Rental Checklist  

The rental checklist is one not to be ignored.  In the end this rental checklist will be the only defense you have against any strange wear and tear your landlord would want to deduct.  The rental checklist will surely help to keep the subjectivity limited, allowing for a more objective understanding.

As such you need to ensure that everything is noted in the checklist, from big to small problems and even blemishes.  Take photos and/or video of the rental inspection and ensure you save this separate to your phone and computer.


Notice and note….

  • Wall cracks
  • Window cracks
  • Floor Scratches
  • Skirting Scratches
  • Condition of the paint per room
  • Condition of the plumbing and electrical per room
  • Cleanliness of the rental unit per room

Check out our Rental Checklist

2. Document your Move-out

Document how pristine you leave the rental unit.  Take photos and/or video of your move out day.  

A common complaint tenants have is that their landlord always seems to deduct a cleaning fee, often far bigger than needed.  An easy way to avoid this discussion is to document your own cleaning process.  Your clean floors will almost always be cleaner than the floor you moved in, your rental checklist would see to that.  

3. How long is your notice?

The most accepted notice period is 30 days in South Africa.  Meaning that you have to inform your landlord at least a month before you want to move out.  Without the correct notice period your landlord is in their right to keep your security deposit back.  As such it is important that you read your lease agreement and give the correct notice period in advance.  If you want to be extra safe you can try and ensure your landlord gives you some proof that they did receive this notice, the idea is to avoid any ‘he said-she said’ arguments.  

4. Return the rental unit in it’s original form

It shouldn’t be upsetting to tenants when landlords deduct because of nails in the walls, scratches on the skirtings, oily ovens and mouldy fridges.  These are the very things that should be fixed and cleaned before you move out.


Start two months before you move out with your packing process, this included fixing the nails in the walls, as well as painting the entire wall the original colour or landlord approved colour.  It might seem like such a small issue, what harm does a few nails do, but you need to consider this from the landlord’s perspective.  A nail in the wall does lead to a lot of work, you need to remove the nail, patch it up (wait for it to dry) and then wash and paint the entire wall.  It is understandable that your landlord will charge for these minor issues, often more than we can afford.


“Returning the previous rental unit to its original form, or even better will ensure you can use the same deposit for the next rental unit. ” 

5. Request a final walk through

The final walk through is just as important as the first walk through.  It is here where you and your landlords will compare what was and what is.  How well did you take care of the property, is is clean, is there many fix-ups, how much of your deposit will you receive back?

As such ensure you have a copy of the original inspection list, the photos & videos, with your cleaning-up photos & videos ready to show.  Take your laptop or phone along to be able to compare the wall damage then and there on the spot.  It is best when this comparison is made together, as most reasonable people will agree easily once there is visual confirmation.


“With your final walk through ensure to return all the keys, remotes and leave a forwarding address for your mail and account information for your security deposit”


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Written by Lizl Brink, Lizl is copywriter and designer based in Johannesburg, she is also a frequent contributor to the Mafadi blog, and as an Urban investor and rejuvenation shares a passion for urban regeneration, go check out her personal portfolio here
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