Landlord And Tenant Problems; Security Deposits

rental agreement form on desktop in business office showing real estate concept

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 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” ( 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:

  1. If the owner does the work themselves, they can only charge for the hours worked and charge a reasonable wage.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. If the deductions are less than $126, no documentation needs to be sent.
  6. If the tenant has no forwarding address, the statement must be sent to the address of the unit rented.
  7. 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.

11 Responses to Landlord And Tenant Problems; Security Deposits

  1. Douglas Graham July 30, 2017 at 6:15 pm #

    Great snippet to let potential new landlords know some issues to expect. And I recommend not renting to “friends.” You will likely lose money AND a friend!

    • Duane Gomer August 1, 2017 at 10:12 am #

      Thank you so much for your comments. It is rewarding to know that at least one person is reading them. You keep reading and I will keep writing.

      However, I would add relatives and mistress to your comment.

  2. joe rodriguez July 30, 2017 at 10:28 pm #

    I was charged $525 almost 9 months after being told to sign a 1 year lease with a $300 rental increase or move out.. Rentee also kept my $500 deposit upon leaving.

    • Duane Gomer August 1, 2017 at 10:13 am #

      Sometimes you just have to go to Small Claims Court or at least get them served, especially if you did not get a timely 21 day statement.

  3. Adrienne Hochee August 4, 2017 at 7:27 pm #

    AND, cleaning fees, repairs, damages must be applied to the deposit. The upaid rent and utilities can then be deducted from the balance.

  4. Kevin D August 6, 2017 at 2:04 pm #

    Sage advice from an experienced landlord. I like that term, BTW…
    Always be more generous to the outgoing tenant than you want to be. A few hundred dollars is less expensive than time in court. Inless the tenant trashed the place, let them off easy, promptly and generously. It will pay you big dividends in reputation, sleep, and well being.

  5. Erica August 8, 2017 at 6:24 am #

    Short story. Lease was up,we moved, left house spotless. Its been over a month and landlord refuse to talk to us and give our deposit back nor will he send a letter stating why he kept our money. His name is Tim anderson out of mooresville. Who can we talk to about this?

    • Duane Gomer August 8, 2017 at 4:44 pm #

      You can call an attorney, but that cost is high. I would recommend going to and downloading their tenant handbook. Then, I would file a small claims court action. Talk in this type of thing does not normally work, and filing a small claims court action is inexpensive.

      Good luck.

  6. Duane Gomer August 8, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

    Adrienne and Kevin D,

    Thank you very much for taking time to respond and giving good information. Stever Duringer is an excellent source of PM eviction and collection law. Go on his website as recommended and request copies of his books on those two subjects, FREE.

  7. Carolyn Burris July 28, 2018 at 3:36 pm #

    I am a past student of yours in a situation I never expected to be. It is just now past the 21 days with out anything about my security deposit. I found on line what I can write to the landlady. But need it verified if accurate for CA law.

    In my letter after I state law and since I have not received then legally I ask for my full deposit. (One of the deductions is I gave notice which allowed me to stay an extra 5/6 days). Legally she needs to send full refund within 5 days of date of my letter. If still doesn’t send, then legally I can say have 5 days to now receive double deposit. If after another 5 days and still nothing then go to small claims or arbitration with my attorney friend.

    Is this accurate, Duane?

    • Duane Gomer August 3, 2018 at 12:49 pm #

      I agree with you up to the point of the amount to sue for; if you have lettered and heard nothing you ask for your full deposit back plus twice the deposit for damages if you believed that the landlord acted in bad faith. Best method is small claims, but you can not take any attorney with you.
      The legal reference is Civil Code 1950.5 and 1940. (5) (g) There is a good resource at titled Security Deposits. You should always give clear written notice of move-out and ask for an inspection before the move-out date which would allow you to know what will be charged and give you time to fix if possible.

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