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Question: I’m about to rent my first Manhattan apartment, but I’m thinking ahead. The landlord wants a $2,500 deposit. That’s a lot! How can I be sure I’ll get it back?

— Not Made of Money on the Lower East Side

Dear Money,

Welcome to New York! And congratulations on landing your new place.

You can make the first move on getting your deposit back before you even move in. Do a pre-move-in walk-through with the landlord or the leasing agent, noting everything wrong or anything that could be misconstrued. (That’s right, there never was a door on the linen closet!) Take pictures. Then if there is a dispute a couple of years down the road, you will have a record of the problem predating your tenancy.

Of course, the best way to make sure you get your rent deposit back is to be a good tenant:

  • Follow the terms of your lease
  • Pay your rent on time
  • Don’t disturb other tenants
  • Give your landlord plenty of notice when you are moving out
  • Pay your last month’s rent
  • Lastly, take good care of your apartment

That means you should plan on leaving the place pretty much as you found it. Go ahead and hang your pictures, but when you move out, get a small tub of spackle and fill in the nail holes. If you succumbed to the bad idea of painting the bathroom fire-engine red, make sure you return it to its original color before you move out. And if you replaced that hideous bedroom light fixture with something more tasteful, you may just have to write it off and donate it to the next tenant.

> Read: What is normal wear and tear on an apartment?

If you do all the right things, and your landlord turns out to be a miserly jerk who doesn’t want to hand over your dough, you have plenty of back-ups, from lodging a complaint with the state Attorney General’s office to taking the landlord to small claims court. Here is what the NYC Rent Guidelines Board suggests.

> Read: How a woman got her security deposit back after two years

And while you are rummaging around the Internet, the AG’s office has a great downloadable pamphlet on tenant’s rights. It looks at all sorts of landlord-tenant issues, not just deposits. It’s worth your time.

David Crook is a veteran journalist and author of The Complete Wall Street Journal Real-Estate Investing and Homeowner’s Guidebooks. Do you have a question about anything real estate-related in NYC? Write him at For verification purposes, please include your name and a phone number; neither will be published. Note: Nothing in this column should be considered professional legal advice. If you have a legal issue, consult an attorney.