What to do if I was not refunded my full security deposit back after a satisfactory final walk-through?

My landlord gave me a postdated check for the deposit of the room that I rented after full inspection of it. He also rented my room to another person sooner than the time my lease ends, so I asked him to refund me the rent I paid for the days he rented the room to other person. His girlfriend agreed in an email to pay me if the new roommate finalized the deal with them. After 2 days, he himself emailed me that he needs to do a carpet cleaning of my room, so he canceled my check and charged me $250 to clean up the carpet of a single room. This was done after my evacuation and inspection of the room. After I asked him to refund my rent money. What can I do? Can I file a small claim?

Asked on November 20, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, a landlord cannot charge a tenant for routine clean-up or maintenance; this includes having to clean a carpet due to normal wear and tear. A tenant is only responsible for the cost of repairs or replacements incurred by damage that they (or their family, pets and guests) have caused. An exception would be if the terms of their lease provided that they would pay for carpet cleaning, etc; in this event such a term would be legal and enforceable.

The fact is that you can be charged after a walk-through (unless there was an agreement to the contrary). However, since nothing was mentioned about the carpet at that time, you have a good argument to present a judge if you wish to pursue legal action to get your full security deposit refunded.

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