If my landlord is claiming excessive damages, what are my rights?

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If my landlord is claiming excessive damages, what are my rights?

I had paid $1,545 as a deposit and she is charging another $1,400 in dammages. I moved in immediately after my sister left and I lived there for 3.5 years. They never did any yearly inspections or any maintanance work. I believe she is extorting money from me.

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

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The landlord has the right to recover from a tenant an amount of money equal to the cost of repairs required by acts of the tenant (or the tenant's family, guests, and pets). The landlord may NOT recover for ordinary wear and tear, but may recover for such things as: unusual carpet stains requiring steam cleaning or replacement (e.g. red wine, pet urine, oil); paint or wall paper that has been drawn on, scratched, or torn; damaged counters, cabinets, windows, or doors; broken appliances or plumbing, etc.

The issues is *not* what the cost is--if you did $100,000 of damage, you could be charged for that. The issue is 1) did you cause the damage; and 2) what is the reasonable cost to repair or replace that damage.

Again, ordinary wear and tear in NOT recoverable.

If you believe the landlord is not entitled to his money, do not pay it; if the landlord believes she is entitled, she may try to sue you. To win her case, she'd have to prove you did the damage and its extent by a "preponderance of the evidence"--e.g. more likely than not.


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