In California, a security deposit for residential property
unfurnished, the security deposit may equal 2 times the rent.
If furnished, the landlord may charge up to 3 times the
In California, there is no such thing as a “non-refundable” security deposit. No matter what it’s
called—a key deposit, cleaning fee, move-in fee, closing
costs, last month’s rent, etc.—all money you pay in addition
to your first month’s rent is refundable. Since
“nonrefundable” deposits are illegal, don’t worry if your
rental agreement includes a section about a “nonrefundable”
deposit. This section will not be valid even if you have signed
the rental contract or agreed to it.
There is no restriction on the amount of the security deposit
for the rental of a commercial property.
The Return of the Deposit:
If a tenant damages the property, the landlord can deduct the
cost of fixing it from the security deposit. But if the tenant
returns the rental in substantially the same condition in which
it was rented (less
normal wear and tear), the landlord must return
the deposit. A landlord can't make tenants pay for painting, new
carpets or curtains, unless there was serious damage. The
landlord is allowed to deduct the cost of cleaning if necessary
to put the unit back to the same level of cleanliness it was in
at the time the property was leased (less reasonable wear and
Within 2 weeks of the tenant's move-out
date, the landlord
must advise the tenant, in writing, of the right to be present
at a walk-through with the landlord. The purpose of the
inspection is to allow the tenant an opportunity to repair
damage pointed out by the landlord.
How much time does a California Landlord have to return
After you move out, a landlord has 3 weeks to return the
security deposit or send a list of how much each of the damages
cost including all receipts. A landlord can only charge a
tenant for unpaid rent and for fixing damage, not normal wear.
The landlord has to prove that the repairs are necessary and
reasonable and must provide you with receipts for those repairs.
What if I don't get my deposit back after 3 weeks?
Write a letter to your landlord if you feel too much was
retained from your security deposit and explain why you
believe you are entitled to a larger refund.
Note: If you also paid "last month's rent,"
It must be used for the last month's rent.
Notify the Landlord
If you pay rent once a month, you have to give your landlord 30
days' notice in writing. If you don't, the landlord can charge
you for the unpaid rent. Unless a new tenant pays the rent,
you'll have to pay for those 30 days. If you pay rent every
week, you have to give 7 days' notice.
Your Deposit When Moving In
Get an itemized receipt for your deposit. This receipt
will identify each charge ( for example, pet deposit, last
month’s rent, cleaning fees, etc.).
When moving in, take careful inventory of the condition of the
place. Record any existing damage and check all appliances to
make sure they work properly. Ask the landlord to sign and date
the inventory and be sure to keep a copy (if they won’t sign,
send a copy to them and mail one to yourself—which you save
unopened). Pictures or videos of the existing condition of the
apartment can also be helpful later.
SUE THE LANDLORD:
You may sue in small claims court for the deposit plus 2x the
deposit in damages. The judge may award you damages if the
landlord retained your security deposit in bad faith.
SALE OF THE RENTAL UNIT:
Both owners may be responsible for returning your deposit when
you move. The previous owner should of given the new owner your deposit
and send you a letter telling you the name, address, and phone
number of the new owner and how much money was transferred. Then
the new owner has to return your deposit when you move. Otherwise you should
request that the previous owner return it. Typically, upon
transfer of ownership, the lawyers should settle the
Security Deposit accounts.