When you rent an apartment in California, you generally put down a security deposit in addition to your first month’s rent. Security deposits can be up to two times the monthly rent in an unfurnished unit. In general, the security deposit minus deductions will be returned to the tenant upon the termination of the lease. The following is a brief overview of how security deposits are handled under California law.
Deductions after you move
Once you move out, your landlord can deduct certain charges from your security deposit. Landlords can deduct cleaning expenses, unpaid rent and damages beyond normal wear and tear. Tenants are expected to leave the unit as clean as it was when they first rented the unit. Pre-existing damages cannot be deducted from a present tenant’s security deposit.
Returning the security deposit
In California, landlords have the duty to send the tenant an itemized list of deductions made from the security deposit and refund the deposit within 21 days of you vacating the unit. If deductions are made or if the landlord keeps the entire deposit, the tenant can send the landlord notice in writing demanding the return of the deposit via certified mail. If the landlord does not respond within a reasonable amount of time, then the tenant has the right to pursue a claim in small claims court.
Seek help with your landlord/tenant issues
Sometimes a landlord has a good reason to make deductions from a tenant’s security deposit, while other times the tenant deserves to have the security deposit returned to them in full. Those who believe they have an issue regarding a security deposit may want to seek the help necessary to better understand their rights and options under the law.