Security Deposit Litigation
Most landlords are not familiar with the laws associated with when and how a tenants’ security deposit can be used, and when it needs to be returned. In California, all security deposits are refundable, even if the lease says that the security deposit is not refundable.
The total security deposit (including last month’s rent, a processing fee, a cleaning fee, and other deposits) cannot exceed two month’s rent for an unfurnished apartment. California law only permits a landlord to use a tenant’s security deposit to pay for the costs of: (1) unpaid rent; (2) cleaning the rental unit after the tenant vacates (but only to the way it was before the tenant moved in); (3) repairing damage caused by the tenant that goes beyond normal wear and tear; and (4) if provided in the lease, replacing keys, laundry cards, garage openers, etc. Any other use of the security deposit by the landlord is not permissible. If a tenant returns the rental in substantially the same condition in which it was rented (less reasonable wear and tear), the landlord must return the entire security deposit. A landlord cannot deduct for painting, cleaning, or changing the carpets, unless the stains are beyond normal wear and tear when taking into consideration how long the tenant lived in the unit. The landlord is allowed to deduct the cost of cleaning if necessary, but only if necessary to put the rental unit back to the same level of cleanliness it was in at the time the tenant first moved into the unit.
May tenants are cheated out of their security deposits. With the help of our attorneys, you can seek remediation of the issue and in many cases, receive financial compensation for the wrongful withholding of your security deposit.