Your mother told you this a million times and you probably never thought it would ever ring true (financially, at least). But when it comes to rental property, you need to treat the final days of your stay as if you were a guest in someone else’s home. Nothing more should be expected of you than to leave the property in the same condition as it was when you arrived. This is why your initial assessment should have been completely and thoroughly documented.
Cleaning up after yourself applies to more than just a little spit and Windex. It refers to returning the unit back into its original shape. Any fixtures, appliances or wall treatments that were your own idea need to be put back, unless you have been given an okay by your landlord to leave certain items “as-is.” However, if this is the case, you need to have the landlord sign off on each of these items. The best way to approach this is to prepare a list for the landlord and have them sign stating that each altered item is okay to be left in its current state. Granted, handshakes are sometimes good enough – but any attorney will tell you to get it in writing.
For those items and changes that are not okay with your landlord, be sure you correct them in order to avoid being charged cleaning and restoration fees that (with today’s prices) could easily exceed your security deposit. Having your landlord sue you for additional expenses would cause even a bigger problem and headache than having to fix a few things, strip some wallpaper and put on a fresh coat of paint.
This is exactly why you should seriously think about making any modifications to a rental property. At the end of your lease, the last thing you want to do is have to rehab your old rental when your attention is primarily focused on moving into your new place. You could always leave your mess behind, but don’t be surprised if you’re charged a substantial penalty.