If I gave my tenant a reduction of rent in exchange for his doing repairs but he failed to do so, am I within my rights to deduct what he owes from his security deposit?

I own a rental home in another state. The tenant contractually agreed to do specific repairs and maintenance in lieu of paying the full rent. I found that the tenant didn’t make the repairs, forcing me to hire someone. The tenant has since moved out and is now requesting full reimbursement of his deposit. Since he is obviously in breach of contract, I’ll deduct the cost of the repairs. My concern is that he may take me to small claims court in an attempt to recover his deposit. Where does the suit have to be filed?

Asked on July 16, 2015 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 5 years ago | Contributor

If the tenant moves out owing you money, whether for damage, for breach of contract, or for unpaid rent, you may deduct the amount owed from the security deposit. If the tenant disagrees, he may try to sue you for the money--it's impossible to stop someone from filing a suit unless you give them everything they want. You would, based on what you write, likely prevail in the lawsuit. A small claims suit would have to be filed in the county in which the landlord (you personally; or your LLC/corporation, if the building was owned by an LLC or corporation) resides or has its principal place of business.


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