One of the biggest benefits of renting over owning a home is having someone else responsible for fielding the cost of major repairs. While no one expects to be a rental property to be pristine after a tenant moves out, there are small, common damages that can chip away at your security deposit.
Don’t let small issues hold you back from getting your full deposit returned. What are the most common forms of rental damage, and which of them can you fix yourself?
Patching Small Drywall Holes
Hanging pictures or artwork on the walls is a fantastic way to customize your space and bring a bit of color into your rooms. But when you’re ready to move out, the last thing you want to do is leave a map of tiny holes in all your walls.
Thankfully, small nail and screw holes are easy to repair with a bit of spackle, a putty knife, and some sandpaper.
Fill the holes with spackle and level it as best you can. Don’t worry — it doesn’t need to be perfect at this stage! Then let it dry and sand it smooth. If your walls are already white, you’re done — holes patched. If they’re a different color, you may need to throw a quick coat of paint over them.
Patching Large Drywall Holes
Larger holes in the drywall are more challenging to repair but not impossible — and they don’t always require the help of a professional. Instead of just slapping spackle over the hole, you’ll need to utilize something to support the patch while it dries.
Many hardware stores carry drywall mesh that you can attach inside the hole, giving you somewhere to lay the spackle without trying to build it up one fragile layer at a time.
If you’re not comfortable with this process or aren't confident in your skills, you may want to consider bringing in a professional. But it’s not strictly necessary as long as you’re patient and don’t mind getting your hands dirty.
Repairing Hardwood Scratches
Hardwood floors are a favorite for landlords and tenants alike because they’re easy to clean, don’t stain easily, and look amazing. Unfortunately, they’re also easy to scratch, especially if you’re moving furniture around frequently, leaving unsightly scrapes that detract from the look of the space.
There are a couple of different ways that you can repair these scratches. Some people swear by the walnut method, which involves rubbing a raw walnut on the scratches. It does work on light woods and shallow scrapes, but it isn’t the best option for deeper gouges or other obvious damage.
For these, you’ll want to get a wood-colored pencil or repair kit from your local hardware store. It’s still an easy and cost-effective DIY fix, but it’s a bit more complicated than pulling a bag of walnuts out of your pantry.
Removing Old Carpet Stains
Stained carpets are tricky. You expect to see some wear and tear on carpeting after someone has lived there for a few years. Carpets only have a usable lifespan of five to fifteen years, so your landlord might be planning to ditch it in the near future, anyway. Feel free to contact them to get a feel for how much carpet damage will affect your deposit.
However, if you live in a newer unit, there’s a big difference between wear and tear and massive or obvious stains on the carpet. Did you spill coffee or have a pet accident at any point? Make it a point to try to remove these stains before you move out. This can be a challenge, but baking soda, carpet spot remover and some time can work a little magic.
Clean Your Kitchen Appliances
If you’re a home cook, it’s shocking how dirty your commonly used kitchen appliances can get over time. Before you move out, give them a thorough cleaning to remove any traces of your presence in the apartment.
Your fridge can be deep cleaned with a simple solution of water and white vinegar. This is best done weekly, but some elbow grease should take care of more long-standing stains. If your oven has a self-cleaning option, then take advantage of it — but some scrubbing can take care of excess gunk. Finally, boil a bowl of water in your microwave and wipe it clean for a fresh start.
When to Call a Professional (Or Leave It to the Landlord)
There are plenty of little things you can do as a tenant — or as a landlord — to repair a property and get it ready to rent again. Many of them are easy to do on your own, but with others, like major renovations, electrical repairs, and other specialized tasks, it’s best to call a professional or, if you’re a tenant, leave it to your landlord.