Friday, September 17, 2010

Know Your Rights: Security Deposits

We have recently received a high number of phone calls from tenants with questions about their security deposits. Here are some quick facts for you to know about your security deposit.

-The deposit may not exceed the amount of two months’ rent (three months if furnished)

-The tenant is not responsible for any damage or wear and tear done by an earlier tenant.

-The landlord must return your deposit within three weeks after you move out; if the landlord retains part or all of the deposit, he/she must give or mail you an “itemized statement” in writing with an explanation and receipts for work done and items purchased, if the amount is $125 or more, and return the rest to you.

-Tenants who moved in after January 1, 2003 have the right to a pre-move-out inspection of their rental to learn about any possible deductions.

-To avoid any tenant-landlord disputes around cleaning after you leave your rental unit, be sure to carefully document your cleaning work through pictures and witnesses.

-A landlord who sells the building is supposed to return the deposit to the tenant OR transfer it to the new owner.

-If your rental was foreclosed and is now owned by a bank or investor, these new owners must account for and return the deposit, regardless of whether the defaulting owner turned the deposit over to the deed or mortgage holder before the foreclosure.

-If three weeks have passed and you still have not received your deposit, you can write a demand letter to your landlord and/or you can sue. The landlord may be liable not just for the amount of the deposit, but for up to two times the amount of the deposit as a penalty for withholding the deposit in bad faith.

For more information, see our complete FAQ or call our hotline at 888-495-8020.

Reference: California Civil Code Section 1950.5
California Tenants’ Rights by Attorneys Janet Portman and David Brown. Published by Nolo Press.

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