Securing Your Security Deposit

Whether you are a California tenant or landlord, it is really important that you know and follow California laws governing security deposits. I get many questions about security deposits in my practice; it is one of the easiest ways to find yourself in a messy landlord-tenant dispute unless you follow some simple steps.

Let Montez Law set the record straight and very briefly summarize some of the California law governing security deposits for residential rentals.

By Jeffrey D. Montez

Security deposits for residential rentals are governed by California Civil Code section 1950.5. A landlord can impose a “payment, fee, deposit or charge” at the start of the tenancy to reimburse the landlord for costs associated with the new tenancy and advanced rent to cover for various items including defaulting on rent, damage to the premises, and cleaning the apartment. (Civil Code section 1950.5 (b).)

When you move out, the landlord has 21 calendar days to provide you two things: (1) an itemized statement of the amount of the original security deposit and the amounts and reasons for retaining some or all of the deposit; and (2) the amount of the deposit not being retained by the landlord (if any). Under the statute, the tenant is not entitled to interest on your security deposit unless the parties agree to otherwise.

Here is a good idea. As a tenant or landlord, it is a good idea BEFORE you move out to set up a walkthrough to go over any damage to the apartment that the tenant may want to fix so that the tenant can get back his or her entire security deposit. This is so there are no surprises and to avoid fights or lawsuits over improperly withheld security deposit monies.

Landlords: security deposits are an important tool in protecting you from footing the bill for damage caused by the tenant. So, it’s a good idea NOT to use a security deposit to pay for the last month’s rent when a tenant is moving out.

Tenants: demand a walkthrough before you move out so you can fix any issues before the landlord deducts it from your security deposit (and uses the most expensive contractors).

If you have more questions about the laws governing security deposits or need help resolving a dispute with a landlord or tenant about them, go ahead and give Montez Law a call.

If you are a landlord or a tenant with a question about how to handle security deposits, please call Montez Law to ask about how Montez Law can help you.

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