in Life

Treating your apartment move-in like a crime scene can save you money

Through my years at college I’ve lived at four various locations: an on-campus dorm, an on-campus apartment, and two off-campus apartments. Something I learned later that I wish I would have learned earlier, is the importance of unit condition forms—those carbon copy documents that you fill out completely ignore, asking you to notate what’s dirty, broken, or just not “right” about your new home. That way when you move out, someone can compare the list to see if you’ve dirtied, broken, or made something not “right” during your stay.

I’m going to explain to you how you can save money in two ways: filling out unit condition forms in detail and writing an effective dispute letter if you do get charged for something.

Spend more than 10 minutes filling out your unit condition form…

…unlike me when I first moved into The Village at Science Drive (here’s a post about why you should NEVER live there, by the way). Let’s take a look at The Village’s Unit Condition Form:

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I hastily spent 10 minutes going around the apartment notating what I thought was “not OK” (I found a whole 9 things—my naiveté will be more apparent in a few paragraphs). I didn’t think it was too important since the University of Central Florida never seemed too strict about those things when I lived on campus. Also, to be completely honest, I figured that by marking “OK” it literally meant “OK”: the item is in OK condition—not perfect, not great, just OK.

That was not the case.

Filling out forms is easy; paying for things you don’t want is stupid.

So, my 10 minutes of work quickly turned into a few hours of work when I received a certified letter in the mail citing various charges that I was responsible for (including the charge to send me the letter via certified mail, the hell?)

I’ve written more letters to The Village (sounds like a cult) than I care to care about—broken air conditioners, stolen equipment, defective locks on doors, and probably more. If I had any hope of getting my money back I knew this letter had to be perfect. So, I wrote a really dense, professional, and intense letter (read it by clicking here). They ended up refunding me all of the money, but I guess they could have just as easily not.

I treated my new apartment’s Unit Condition Form like a crime report from C.S.I. (Do they have “crime reports” on C.S.I.?)

Okay, so I got my money back. But writing a letter takes a lot of time and there’s no guarantee that it’s going to work. Filling out a form takes a lot less time and it’s a pretty good safeguard against you being charged for things you didn’t do. Take a look at my C.S.I. Unit Condition Form for River Park Apartments:

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As you can see, I marked as many things as I could find and, believe it or not, I didn’t fake anything—I simply took the time to really look at everything.

I would like to mention, however, that being vague on the form isn’t illegal and it definitely works in your favor, e.g., “dirty” instead of “wall has one black mark,” but I wouldn’t lie because there’s a chance that they may come out and look.

In summary, as my 5th grade teacher would require me to say…

…here are three key things that I think you should take away from this blog post:

  1. Actually fill out your unit condition forms, in detail.
  2. Be vague when it comes to certain things so you can stretch your words to cover potential issues that could be argued against you.
  3. If you do get charged for something, make sure you do NOT passively hand over money to your apartment complex. It’s their job to charge you. It’s most college students’ job to ask their parents to pay for it—or so it was before this blog post, right? Don’t be most college students. Write an effective letter to change their mind (these aren’t the charges I’m paying for…)

What do you think about these forms? Do you ever fill them out? Have you ever had a problem with an apartment complex or landlord trying to keep your security deposit or charge you for absurd things? Let me know in the comments.

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