FORT RUCKER, Ala. (May 2, 2013) -- Too often, Soldiers are taken by surprise when they receive a bill rather than their security deposit after they have moved to a new duty location.

Here are five important tips to protect yourself when renting property, so that you will get a full refund of your security deposit.

1. Fill out a move-in inspection sheet.

When you first take possession of your house or apartment, ask your landlord for a move-in inspection sheet to fill out. On this sheet, you can document any problems with the property that were already there when you moved in. Remember to document any and every small scratch or stain. Return the sheet to your landlord or property management company, and have them sign and date a receipt stating that you turned it in. Also, make sure you keep a copy for your own records.

2. Take pictures.

Take pictures of the property when you move in and also when you move out. This way, if your landlord charges you for damages you did not cause, you can prove that either the property was in the damaged condition when you moved in, or it was not in the damaged condition when you moved out. Given all the advanced smart phones out there now, you can also take a video of a walk-through of the property both when moving in and when moving out.

3. Document any communications between you and your landlord.

If there are any issues with your property that you want your landlord or property manager to fix, make sure you keep records of the conversations you have with them, either by email or by keeping a log book. With these records, you can prove that you gave your landlord notice of any problems that you may have had during your tenancy. Also, if your landlord or property manager agrees to alter any conditions of the lease, such as letting you move out early without a penalty, make sure you get this in writing.

4. Do a walk-out inspection with your landlord.

When you move out, ask your landlord or property manager to do a walk-out inspection with you to confirm there are no issues with the property. You should ask them to point out any deficiencies so you are aware of any potential charges. They should also explain their expectations for you when you move out; for example, if you should hire a professional cleaning service or a carpet cleaner, or if you will be allowed to leave furniture or other large items on the property for the landlord to dispose of.

5. Give your landlord notice that you are moving out.

Even though most leases have a termination date, most leases still require that you give your landlord at least a 30-day notice that you intend to move out on the termination date. If you don't give your landlord or property manager notice, they will assume that you want to remain in the property past the lease expiration and become a month-to-month tenant. To avoid being charged an extra month's rent, look at your lease to determine how much notice you need to give your landlord -- usually, it will be either 30 days or 45 days. The notice must be in writing, and the best way to ensure delivery is to send the notice through certified mail.

The legal assistance office is open to active-duty service members, retirees and their Family members. If you would like further information regarding renting residential property or would like to speak to an attorney, come to Bldg. 5700, Rm. 320, or call 255-3482 to make an appointment.