For a breach of a lease which caused no damage to the premises, how much is a landlord allowed to charge?

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For a breach of a lease which caused no damage to the premises, how much is a landlord allowed to charge?

We rented a vacation home 400 miles away. The agreement stated no pets but my daughter brought her small dog. None of us expected this when she arrived. We left the place with no damage whatsoever. The landlord has a houskeeper who observes activity at the house and reported seeing a dog at the premises. We were honest and told the landlord what had happened. He e-mailed my daughter that he was keeping our deposit due to the violation; there was no damage or mess left by the dog. I would be willing to pay a small charge for cleaning but the landlord wants to keep the whole $1400. Do we have to pay this unreasonable amount?

Asked on October 12, 2012 under Real Estate Law, California

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, the landlord may NOT keep the security deposit for the lease violation: lease violations do not give rise to the right to retain deposits. A deposit may only be retained to pay for damage or to pay rent which the tenants owed but failed to pay. If the landlord will not return your deposit, you may sue him to recover it.


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