California Security Deposit
California Security Deposits

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CALIFORNIA SECURITY DEPOSIT

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 rent.

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 tear).

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 the deposit? 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.

Protecting 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.

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