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Don’t Forget to Do These Things Before Moving Out of Your Apartment

28 Jun 2017 14

Let’s face it: moving is the worst. You have to pack everything up, rent a moving truck, enlist an unlucky friend to help you, move out everything from your apartment into the truck, fight Chicago traffic, then move it all into your new place.

In addition to the cost, there are a million little details to keep track of. It’s no surprise that some critical steps often fall by the wayside. Unfortunately, forgetting to do some important tasks during your move out can end up costing you time and money, causing many headaches for weeks after you’ve moved. If you want to avoid some of the most common pitfalls, make sure to take care of all of the following tasks.


Most leases require at least 30 days’ notice that you have no intention to re-sign, and are moving out of the apartment. Most landlords will reach out to you at this point, because they are eager to know as soon as possible whether or not they should be looking for new tenants. However, if they do not do so and you fail to give notice you plan to move, they may be able to charge you for an additional month’s rent.


When most people move into a new apartment or condo, they inevitably see the old tenant’s mail come through the door for the first few weeks (or months, if the previous occupant is particularly slow moving).

Don’t let that be you. Before you move out, make sure to contact important institutions such as your employer, bank, credit card company, and insurance provider to let them know your new address. You don’t want to end up paying a late fee or missing out on important information because your mail is going to the wrong apartment. In addition, you should contact USPS to set up mail forwarding for the first few weeks after you move, so that any mail that does get sent to your old apartment will be automatically sent to your new address.


Dealing with most utility companies in Chicago is a relatively straightforward affair. If you have existing service, you can simply call the provider (or in some cases, use their online customer portal) to change the address on your account. Let them know when you plan to discontinue service at your current address, and when you plan to start using their service at your new home.

Once you have moved in to your new place, you don’t have to do any manual setup for gas and electricity. For internet, your apartment should have the cables ready to connect to your equipment; simply hook up your cable box or router the same way as in your previous apartment.

Failing to do these in a timely manner might cost you some money if bills for these services overlap. Even worse, it may leave you without internet for a couple days (the horror!).


As soon as you turn over your security deposit to your landlord or management company, you give them the power to decide how much you’re getting back upon moving out. And the easiest way to put a dent into that amount, barring damage to the apartment, is by leaving it dirty.

Apartments adhere to the boy scout rule: leave it in the same or better condition as you left it. With the exception of normal wear and tear – a few small smudges in the fridge, the floor varnish lightly scuffed from regular use – the apartment should be cleaned from top to bottom: that means no garbage, no big marks on the walls, and all surfaces wiped down.

If your landlord has to call in a professional cleaning crew after you move out, then you better believe at least part of that bill will be taken out of your deposit. Also, many landlords will typically charge you for any piece of furniture they have to remove – up to $100 per piece. So even if you don’t want to keep that couch, it will be in your best interest to donate, sell, or just toss it rather than leaving it in the unit.


No matter how good you think your relationship is with your landlord, things can change if the two of you have a disagreement over money. The vast majority of landlords are fair and scrupulous people, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If you get sticker shock from the hit your security deposit takes, you don’t want it to be your word against your landlord’s.

Instead, once you have finished moving out and cleaning, take pictures of the entire apartment so you can prove the condition you left it in. Be sure to take photos of areas where you think you might be charged: a small dent in the drywall, a scratch in the floor. If they try to get away with charging you for completely replacing a panel or refinishing the floor, you’ll be able to argue your case.


After you’ve completed all of the tasks you’re responsible for and have returned the keys, make sure your landlord promptly performs their inspection and returns the remainder of the deposit. In Chicago, landlords have 30 days from the time you move out to inform you of any damages, and from that point another 30 days to return your deposit. You may even want to be present at the final walk-through, so that you can be sure that everything is squared away and the two of you are on the same page.

Once your lease is complete and you have your deposit back, you can feel satisfied that you are leaving your old apartment behind for good, with no lingering doubts or anxieties.

Photo courtesy of Nikolas Huk

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