When a tenant rents a property in California, most of the time he or she will give the landlord a security deposit. A security deposit is money the landlord takes as compensation if the tenant damages the property or violates the terms of the lease. It can also be used for cleaning the property, replacing a key or back rent.
After the tenant moves out, the landlord has 21 days to return the tenant’s security deposit in full. If the landlord keeps all or part of the security deposit, the landlord must mail or personally deliver a letter to the tenant explaining that along with a list of each deduction, the remaining refund available and copies of receipts for any charges or deductions.
Security deposit disputes
Tenants can take photos of the rental unit and can request a walk-through of the unit with a checklist when they move in and move out to document its condition. This can be helpful if there is a dispute later with a landlord who withholds a security deposit for damage to the property.
Also, if a tenant needs to move out before the lease is over, he or she should keep a copy of the written notice provided to the landlord. Disputes may arise when the tenant terminates the lease early and the landlord withholds the security deposit.
If the landlord does not return the security deposit or the tenant disputes the deductions, the tenant can file a lawsuit in small claims court for the amount of the deposit plus twice the amount of the security deposit in damages as long as it $10,000 or less.
An experienced real estate attorney can answer questions and provide representation.