Steve Duringer Is One Of The Top Eviction Attorneys In California
A former student of mine years ago, he has become the guru in this area. His newsletters, websites, and booklets are great sources of information. I would like to quote a thought from one of his FAQ’s.
“The disposition of security deposits on move out is one of the most litigated issues in civil court.”
Go To Duringerlaw.com For His Thoughts
Might be good to study this topic before you need to know the topic. The main regulation concerning security deposits is Civil Code 1950.5, and another source of information is the booklet from the Department of Consumer Affairs titled, “California Tenants” (dca.ca.gov). Here are some of the items in this State Department.
Deduction Rights Of The Landlord
When someone moves out, the landlord (hate that word, let’s use owner) has the right to deduct certain items from the tenant’s security deposit.
First And Foremost Is Rent Owed
Also, the owner can charge for cleaning the unit. This is not an automatic charge, and the cost can only cover bringing the unit “back to as clean as when the tenant moved in.”
The owner can charge for restoring or replacing personal property such as furniture and even the keys. The phrase that causes the most problems is, “For repair of damage other than normal wear and tear”.
The Two Most Controversial Areas Are Carpet And Drapes
One major question is what is the normal life of carpets and drapes. Judges and attorneys seem to have different opinions.
I would like to present what the State of California mentions in their DCA information.
In examples, they use 2 years for paint and 10 years for carpet (they must be talking about very good carpets).
This means that if a tenant lives 6 months in the property, they can be charged for the full amount of the painting needed, and if they are in the unit for two years or more, they cannot be charged anything for the painting. Carpet damage must also be prorated.
Couple Of Other Points Discussed:
- If the owner does the work themselves, they can only charge for the hours worked and charge a reasonable wage.
- If there are disagreements on the cost of repairs, either party can go to small claims court for amounts up to $10,000 or ask for meditation.
- The owner must complete the work and send an itemized statement with complete billing information for all repairs to the tenant at least 21 days after move out.
- If the owner cannot get the work done within that time period, they can send an estimate and send the statement within 14 days after the deadline.
- If the deductions are less than $126, no documentation needs to be sent.
- If the tenant has no forwarding address, the statement must be sent to the address of the unit rented.
- If the owner misses the 21 day deadline or acts in bad faith, they will be allowed no deductions
Remember There Is Another Regulation About Inspections
If the tenant requests a pre-move out inspection, it must happen.
This is done to discuss repairs and other items that the tenant can correct before move out. The owner must inform the tenant of this option.
Therefore, Let Me Say It One More Time
This is not a simple process so tenants and owners should both become informed. You will hear many myths and old wives tales about this.
There is information out there, so use it.
And remember, the final decision will be up to the judge or commissioner who draws your case in small claims or civic court. So go in prepared with documents, photos, perhaps a sample of the carpet, and be calm.
As the Boy Scouts say, “Be Prepared.” And know that the authorities do not all agree, and that your adversary may adjust the facts in a major way.