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Putting down cash for your security deposit? Get a receipt

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How much total do you plan to tip the building staff this year?

Moving apartments is an expensive endeavor, especially when it includes the upfront payment of first and last month’s rent, a broker's fee and a security deposit. Fortunately, you can usually count on getting that deposit back, right? Well, yes, if you and your landlord have behaved according to the law.

A reader recently wrote into Gothamist with a complicated story about moving into a place without getting his or her name on the lease, and eventually getting back a measly $167 from the landlord after putting down a cash deposit of $750. What do you do in a situation like this? A brief rundown of your landlord's legal obligations so you can avoid this altogether:

Upon moving in:

• If the building contains six apartments or more, a landlord is supposed to deposit the rent (including the security deposit) in an interest-bearing segregated account and either return the bulk of the interest to you each year or provide you with a statement of accrued interest.

• If you pay the deposit in cash, get a written receipt (a landlord is required by law to issue one).

Upon moving out:

• If you’ve moved out of the apartment on or before the end date of the lease (and made it official by returning the keys), left the place in decent condition (snap a few parting pics as proof) and are up to date on all rental payments, you’re owed the security deposit.

• If a landlord doesn’t return your deposit, plus accrued interest, you can sue for the amount in small claims court (though that comes with its own set of headaches).

Related:

Get back your security deposit

Security deposit self defense: What you need to know

Can a landlord deduct legal fees from a security deposit?

How to break a lease in NYC