Protecting your Security Deposit: 3 Quick Steps when Moving into a New Apartment in Manhattan, KS

If you want to make sure you get your security deposit back in Kansas, it's important to document your new apartment as soon as possible when you move in.

Inventory of premises by landlord and tenant, when; copies. Within five (5) days of the initial date of occupancy or upon delivery of possession, the landlord, or such landlord’s designated representative, and the tenant shall jointly inventory the premises. A written record detailing the condition of the premises and any furnishings or appliances provided shall be completed. Duplicate copies of the record shall be signed by the landlord and the tenant as an indication the inventory was completed. The tenant shall be given a copy of the inventory.
— K.S.A 58-2548.

Even if the carpet already had a stain on it, your landlord might allege you were responsible and deduct the cost from from your security deposit when you move out. How can you prove the stain was there to begin with?

Kansas law requires tenants and landlords take an inventory the premise when you move in. This will protect you and your landlord. Some landlords will have their own property inventory list but many Manhattan landlords do not take an inventory at all! Regardless of whether your landlord has their own inventory checklist or not, it is smart to make your own documentation.

3 Easy Steps to Protect Your Security Deposit:

1. Fill out your own written inventory checklist with your landlord or at least one witness.

If your landlord has their own inventory checklist, great! Go through that form with them, but you may disagree with them about what they write down. They may say the fridge is in great condition but you may note that one of the shelves is wobbly and already partly broken. Take your own inventory so you ensure you have a copy and can record what you think is important. Ask your landlord to sign your inventory checklist. If they do not want to, have a second witness go through your checklist with you and ask them to sign to it.

2. Take pictures and/or a video of your apartment.

A photo is worth a million words - especially in Kansas courts. Your written inventory is a great start but photos/video can really help you get your security deposit back and protect you from unfair charges from a landlord. Break out your cell phone and take photos of the walls, carpet, closets, utility closets, under the sinks, the bathroom, windows, and everything else that could possibly break!  When it comes to Manhattan courts, it's always better to have too much evidence than not enough.

3. Back those photos up.

A lot can change during a one year lease - laptops break, cell phones get replaced, email addresses get changed. Saving your photos to multiple places can help you make sure you still have the photos when you move out. To backup your photos we suggest:

  1. Emailing them to yourself and a friend. That way you can search your email or your friends email and find them later - even if your phone or laptop has been replaced.

  2. Upload them to a photo backup service.  There are many free services that allow you to save your photos online. Sign up for one and upload your photos to the service. Just make sure to not lose your login information.

    1. Google Photos

    2. Photobucket

    3. Shoebox

Done!  Now it's time to relax and enjoy your apartment. Your future self will thank you when you're negotiating your security deposit at move out.

Attorney Paul Shipp

Attorney Paul Shipp

Q&A with Attorney Paul Shipp

If you move in and something needs to be fixed what should you do?

Your landlord has to meet the requirements for landlords laid out in Kansas law (KSA 58-2553) and they have to meet the standards laid out in your lease agreement. If they do not meet one or both of these requirements then according to Kansas law (KSA 58-2560) you have two options - terminate your lease or demand they fix the issue (demand for performance)

KSA 58-2560.Failure by landlord to deliver possession; remedies. If the landlord fails to deliver possession of the dwelling unit to the tenant as provided in K.S.A. 58-2552, rent abates until possession is delivered and the tenant:

(a) Upon at least five days' written notice to the landlord, may terminate the rental agreement and upon termination the landlord shall return all of the security deposit; or

(b) may demand performance of the rental agreement by the landlord and, if the tenant elects, maintain an action for possession of the dwelling unit against the landlord, or any person wrongfully in possession, and recover the damages sustained by such tenant.

If a person's failure to deliver possession is willful and not in good faith, an aggrieved party may recover from such person an amount not more than one and one-half (1 1/2) months' periodic rent or one and one-half (1 1/2) times the actual damages sustained by such party, whichever is greater.

Can you break your lease if your apartment doesn’t meet Kansas legal requirements for landlords (KSA 58-2553) and/or does not meet your lease agreement standards?

You may terminate your lease within the first few days of your lease, by giving your landlord a written notice informing them that you will be moving out within the next 5 days. When you move out, under Kansas law (KSA 58-2560), your landlord is obligated to give you all of your security deposit back.

Instead of moving out, can you demand your landlord fix the issue?

Yes! Under Kansas law (KSA 58-2560), if your apartment doesn’t meet Kansas legal requirements for landlords (KSA 58-2553) and/or does not meet your lease agreement standards you can also make a ‘demand for performance’.  In other words you may demand the landlord fix the issue and you can refuse to pay rent until they fix the issue (legally referred to as ‘rent abatement’).