What governs the timeframe of the return of a security deposit – state law or the term of a lease?

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What governs the timeframe of the return of a security deposit – state law or the term of a lease?

I recently moved out of a townhome room I rented for the year. In the lease agreement, I put down a $750 security deposit which, under the stipulation of the contract, agreed would be paid back to me within 6 months of my move-out date. However, CA law (the state where the room was located) clearly states that security deposits must be returned within 21 days of the move-out date. Upon moving out, I signed another agreement with my landlord understanding that I would receive my security deposit within 6 months minus any necessary deductions.

Asked on September 10, 2010 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

State law.  In fact, California has as part of it law a specific section that states that under Civil Code 1853,  any part of a rental agreement in which you agree to waive or modify any right under Section 1950.5 is void.  Section 1950.5 is the section that deals specifically with security deposits, holding deposits (which are different) and what can happen if you violate the laws regarding them.  One would think that you have the ability to modify this law through your contract (the rental agreement) but in fact you absolutely do not. here.  So I would write to your landlord and state the sections that I have listed here and see what happens.  You may want to through in a part regarding "bad faith" and "punitive damages up to $600" too.  Good luck.


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