Canmy landlord charge mefor normal wear and tear?

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Canmy landlord charge mefor normal wear and tear?

I moved out from a studio apartment before the 1 year contract ended. I paid full 3 months rent and lease break fee. I cleaned the place like the way it was before I moved in. There was no damage at the time I vacated. After few weeks later, I was still waiting for return of my security deposit. They sent me a letter that stated that I need to pay $21 extra for the wall painting touch up, cleaning and carpet shampoo. I researched on-line CA Civil Code Section 1950.5 which describes that a landlord cannot deduct for painting, carpet shampoo, or replacing the carpets unless tenant damages them. What are my rights?

Asked on April 21, 2011 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

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

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, you cannot; you are correct.  CA’s security deposit statute specifically allows the landlord to only use a tenant’s security deposit for: 

  • Unpaid rent;
  • 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;
  • Repair of damages caused by the tenant or the tenant’s guests - other than normal wear and tear; and
  • The cost of restoring or replacing furnishings/personal property - other than because of normal wear and tear and only if the lease/rental agreement allows it.

Therefore, a landlord can only withhold from the security deposit those amounts that are reasonably necessary for these purposes.  It cannot be used for repairing defects that existed in the unit before the tenant moved in, for conditions caused by normal wear and tear during a tenancy or previous tenancies, or for cleaning a rental unit that is as clean as it was when the tenant moved in.  What you can do is take your landlord to small claims court to collect any sums legitimately owed to you.  However, it will cost to file so make sure that it's worth it (and $21 would not be worth it). 


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