Check your lease regarding payments that are due
Make sure that your lease clearly specifies the amounts and the nature of any payments you make when you move in. Typically, you would need to pay three times your monthly rent, as follows: - Your first month of rent - Your last month of rent - The security deposit Keep a copy of your lease for your records.
Inspect your living quarters
Inspect your living quarters at the time you move in. Try to have your landlord with you, so that you do the inspection together. If your quarters has any problems, you will want to note them, so that you are not responsible for damage that already existed. Things to look for include - Dirty carpets - Missing towel racks - Holes in walls - Missing doorknobs - Water damage
Document any issues with the living quarters
Make a list of the problems and their location. If you have a camera, take photos. Organize your list by room, so that you can keep track of things more easily. Put a date on the list, then sign it. As your landlord to sign the list as well. If your landlord is not present, then send him the list such that you can be sure that the landlord received it, for example by using certified mail with a return receipt. Keep this list, and refer to it later at the end of your lease, when you are moving out.
If you are a non-US citizen or non-US national, notify the government of your address change, if necessary
This last tip really has nothing to do with whether or not you will receive your deposit. Nonetheless, the tip is important enough to mention. With certain limited exceptions, if you an alien, then within 10 days of your change of address, you must notify US Citizenship and Immigration Services of your new address, via form AR-11. This link provides that form as well as an option for online completion. This requirement does not apply to US citizens or US nationals. http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis/menuitem.5af9bb95919f35e66f614176543f6d1a/?vgnextoid=c1a94154d7b3d010VgnVCM10000048f3d6a1RCRD&vgnextchannel=db029c7755cb9010VgnVCM10000045f3d6a1RCRD. If you are in F-1 status, you must tell your designated school official (DSO) of your change of address within 10 days of that change