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


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.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.