What amI entitled to ifI have to sue my landlord for wrongfully withholding my security deposit?

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What amI entitled to ifI have to sue my landlord for wrongfully withholding my security deposit?

Am I entitled to my security deposit and 2x the amount of my deposit? I gave 30 days notice and moved out after 7 years. The first time I spoke to my landlord was 2 weeks after giving notice. I called to make sure that she still wanted the apartment painted white. I was painting due to holes from pictures and crayon on the walls. She advised me not to paint because she would have it done and then told me that I wasn’t getting my deposit back because of everything she repaired during the time I lived there. The repairs she made were things like plumbing and cracks in ceiling. After a couple of encounters in the last couple of weeks it’s clear I will have to sue.

Asked on August 16, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

California law specifically allows the landlord to use a tenant's security deposit for four purposes:

  • For unpaid rent;
  • For cleaning the rental unit when the tenant moves out, but only to make the unit as clean as it was when the tenant first moved in;
  • For repair of damages, other than normal wear and tear, caused by the tenant or the tenant's guests; and
  • If the lease or rental agreement allows it, for the cost of restoring or replacing furniture, furnishings, or other items of personal property (including keys), other than because of normal wear and tear.

The amount withheld must be reasonable.  The landlord has 21 days to return the security or send you an itemized list detailing he deductions and why.  Receipts are required in certain circumstances.  Repairs made during your tenancy that made the apartment habitable and were not made due to your negligence in any way should not be charged to you.  Tell you landlord that you want a refund immediately.  Then if you do not get it within seek legal help.  Good luck.  


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