What do I need to prove to get my security deposit back?

I lived in an apartment 10.5 months. New paint job; old andstained carpets when I moved in. Cleaned thoroughly when moved outbut didn’t take pictures. Requested a pre-move-out inspection in writing; lanlord did not respond. At move-out, we did a short walk-through, and landlordverbally advised he noticed only normal wear and tear. No check-sheet used, but I documented the conversation in a letter. Landlord withheld $665 of security deposit for repainting and cleaning. Wrote a demand letter to recover $665 and landlord verbally offered to return half. Is my case strong enough to pursue the full deposit balance in small claims?

Asked on September 11, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The general rule is that the tenant must return the apartment in substantially the same condition as it was rented, absent normal wear and tear.  If that is the case, then the landlord must return the security deposit.  The landlord can not charge you for painting or carpet replacement unless there was "serious" damage.  You do not have any pictures and that is a drag.  The letter confirming your conversation was a good idea but self-serving.  A witness, perhaps? Could also be self-serving if not unbiased.  But I think that you still have a decent case for going to court and getting way more than half that has been offered.  But remember: attorneys can not determine the outcome of a case before hand. We can only give you our best "guesstimate" based upon a reading of the law and the facts as presented to us by clients.  Good luck.

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