What It Means to Get Your Apartment 'Broom Clean'

Knowing the Answer Is Key to Getting Back Your Security Deposit

Young woman cleaning up the room
artparadigm/Photodisc/Getty Images

If you're like most tenants, as you near the end of your lease term, you start thinking about what you need to do to ensure you'll get your security deposit back. The first place you would look for the answer is your lease, but you'll probably find it's not too enlightening. Chances are, your lease says little more than that you need to leave your apartment in "broom clean" condition. What does this mean, and do you need to go out and buy a broom?

The term "broom clean" has become the standard real estate lingo for the condition in which a landlord should expect a tenant to leave her apartment. There's no universal definition of this term that lays out the specifics, but here's some guidance on what you should do when it's time to move out:

  • Reasonable wear and tear are okay. It's not the┬átime to start making repairs, and it's probably not your responsibility anyway. Hopefully, unsightly or defective parts of your apartment, such as cracks in the ceiling or damaged windowsill molding, are items that you brought to the landlord's attention when you moved in.
  • Don't repaint the apartment. Your landlord may give your apartment a fresh coat of paint between your move-out and the next tenant's move-in. But you don't need to do this. However, if you've painted any of your apartment walls -- with or without permission -- during your tenancy for decorative purposes, you should paint it back (unless your landlord told you otherwise). At most, you might want to treat some tiny areas with touch-up paint or with products such as the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser (compare prices). Although this may not be required, sometimes small aesthetic fixes can contribute greatly to the overall impression of an apartment.
  • Remove nails from walls. Inspect your walls to make sure that any nails, hooks, or other devices you've used to hang frames and other items are gone. Take the extra step and spackle the area to remove the small holes that remain.
  • Put yourself in your landlord's shoes. Think what would make you satisfied if you were the landlord inspecting the apartment after your tenant moved out. Another strategy is to pretend you've been renting the apartment for free from your best friend and you want to leave it looking as presentable as possible for when your friend returns.
  • Consider hiring a cleaning service. If you have a person regularly clean your apartment, schedule the last cleaning for a day or two before you move out. If you've been handling the cleaning on your own, do a thorough job before you leave for good, or hire a service to help you out this last time.

If you follow these pointers, you should meet your lease's requirement to get your security deposit back -- even if you don't own a broom.