Signing for an apartment is a pretty big ordeal. With all the paperwork and fees, new residents can get overwhelmed. At the time people sign the lease, it’s understood there will be a lot of money paid upfront. Many residents think that a security deposit is a massive extra charge when first moving into an apartment, and it can be a huge ding in their budget, but this is one of the only fees that’s paid that residents can get back. If you’re looking into a new apartment and you’re wondering how to get as much back as you can, here are some things you need to know about your security deposit.

First, you need to understand what a security deposit is. Essentially, you’re paying money up front to promise that you, fellow residents, your guests, and your pets will not wreak too much havoc on the apartment during your lease. If you do, it’s up to you to fix them in order to get your deposit back. When the landlord receives your money they will likely put it in an escrow account. Your landlord cannot use this money until you’ve left, to use it for repairs or cleaning of your apartment. After the home has been assessed and damage repaired, the landlord will return the remainder to you.

How much is a security deposit typically, and how is it calculated? Most landlords will not charge more than one month’s rent for a security deposit, but some states allow landlords to charge up to three months rent for the deposit. When factoring in how much to charge, landlords keep four main factors in mind: state laws, monthly rent, amenities, and security deposits of their competitors. Your credit score can also affect how much your security deposit costs you. A resident with a low credit score may be seen as high-risk, so landlords may charge them more to offset this risk.

Security deposit and last month’s rent can be related or different. If your lease states that the security deposit is to be considered last month’s rent can only be used for the rent, not any repairs on the apartment. If your landlord only requires last month’s rent and not a security deposit, they’re taking the financial responsibility of any fixes to the apartment on their own.

The time for turnaround on the deposit is usually about a month after the lease is over. It will be mailed to you after you have officially moved out, though this time frame can be shorter or longer depending on what the lease states. Make sure you have a good address on file for the landlord for your deposit to be sent to, and follow up with an email when expecting your deposit. It can be a long time between signing the lease and expecting the security deposit back, so making sure that both you and the landlord have the right information will be beneficial. If you don’t get refunded for your deposit, there could be a lot of reasons. Anything still dirty or broken at the time you leave will be taken from your deposit, or if you vacate your apartment before the lease is over, your security deposit will cover utilities and the like for that time period. You will receive an itemized list of everything that your deposit went towards should you not get the full amount back.

Signing a new lease is a lot of work, and knowing what your money goes into is half the battle. Making sure you leave the apartment as tidy as it was when you moved in will work wonders for getting your entire deposit back. The math that goes into how much you pay and how much you get back isn’t as difficult as it seems once you’re aware of all the things you need to know about your security deposit. Getting that extra money in your pocket at the end of your lease can be a big help if you’re moving somewhere else, and it’s the only fee that can be refunded, so leaving your old apartment in the best state possible will help you out immensely.