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Security deposits for residential properties in California

Security deposits for residential properties in California are the topic of this blog post which will briefly discuss some of the more important provisions of Civil Code section 1950.5 which governs a security deposit for a residential property in California. Residential tenants in California are often unaware of the more important provisions relating to security deposits such as how much security deposit the landlord can require them to pay and if the landlord can call any portion of the security deposit nonrefundable such as a “cleaning deposit.“

One of the most important provisions is found in Civil Code section 1950.5(c) which states in pertinent part that, “A landlord may not demand or receive security, however denominated, in an amount or value in excess of an amount equal to two months’ rent, in the case of unfurnished residential property, and an amount equal to three months’ rent, in the case of furnished residential property, in addition to any rent for the first month paid on or before initial occupancy. Thus a landlord cannot require that a tenant pay more than an amount equal to two months rent for an unfurnished unit and more than an amount equal to three months rent for a furnished rent.

Note that if the tenant uses a waterbed the landlord is entitled to increase the security deposit in an amount equal to one-half of one month’s rent pursuant to Civil Code section 1940.5(g).

Another very important provision is found in Civil Code section 1950.5(m) which states that, “No lease or rental agreement may contain a provision characterizing any security as “nonrefundable.” Some landlords in California do attempt to collect a nonrefundable “cleaning deposit” when a tenant signs a lease.

The landlord can only claim from the security deposit those amounts that are reasonably necessary such as:

The repair of damages to the premises, exclusive of ordinary wear and tear, caused by the tenant or by a guest or licensee of the tenant.

The cleaning of the premises upon termination of the tenancy necessary to return the unit to the same level of cleanliness it was in at the inception of the tenancy.

To remedy future defaults by the tenant in any obligation under the rental agreement to restore, replace, or return personal property or appurtenances, exclusive of ordinary wear and tear, if the security deposit is authorized to be applied thereto by the rental agreement.

The landlord cannot charge the tenant for any damages that occurred before the tenant moved in pursuant to Civil Code section 1950.5(e) which states that, “The landlord may claim of the security only those amounts as are reasonably necessary for the purposes specified in subdivision (b). The landlord may not assert a claim against the tenant or the security for damages to the premises or any defective conditions that preexisted the tenancy, for ordinary wear and tear or the effects thereof, whether the wear and tear preexisted the tenancy or occurred during the tenancy, or for the cumulative effects of ordinary wear and tear occurring during any one or more tenancies.”

Civil Code section 1950.5(g) which governs the disposition and return of the security deposit is quite detailed but briefly stated it requires that within 21 calendar days after the tenant has vacated the premises the landlord must personally deliver or mail to the tenant an itemized statement that details all the charges made against the security deposit as well as returning any remaining portion of the security deposit to the tenant. The landlord must also includes copies of all relevant documents such as bills, invoices, etc. showing the charges that were incurred if the landlord or landlord’s employee did not do the work. If the landlord or landlord’s employee did do the work the statement must describe the work performed, the time spent and the reasonable hourly rate charged for the work.   The landlord does not have to provide copies or a detailed itemization if the deductions for repairs and cleaning together do not exceed $125.00.

A landlord may not make a bad faith claim or retain a security deposit in bad faith. If they do they may be subject to statutory damages of up to twice the amount of the security, in addition to actual damages and they will have the burden of proof as to the reasonableness of the amounts claimed. See Civil Code section 1950.5(l).

A tenant can sue their former landlord in small claims court as long as their statutory and actual damages do not exceed the current limit of $10,000.00. See Civil Code section 1950.5(n).

Attorneys or parties in California that would like to view a sample security deposit dispute letter in Microsoft Word format created by the author can see below.

Attorneys or parties in California that would like more information on a California eviction litigation document package containing over 25 sample documents and selling for only $69.99 can use the link shown below.

http://legaldocspro.net/california-eviction-litigation-document-package/

The author of this blog post, Stan Burman, is an entrepreneur and freelance paralegal who has worked in California and Federal litigation since 1995 and has created over 300 sample legal documents for California and Federal litigation.

*Do you want to use this article on your website, blog or e-zine? You can, as long as you include this blurb with it: “Stan Burman is the author of over 300 sample legal documents for California and Federal litigation and is the author of a free weekly legal newsletter. You can receive 10 free gifts just for subscribing. Just visit http://freeweeklylegalnewsletter.gr8.com/ for more information.

Follow the author on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/LegalDocsPro

You can view sample legal document packages for sale at:  http://www.legaldocspro.com/downloads.aspx

DISCLAIMER:

Please note that the author of this blog post, Stan Burman is NOT an attorney and as such is unable to provide any specific legal advice. The author is NOT engaged in providing any legal, financial, or other professional services, and any information contained in this blog post is NOT intended to constitute legal advice.

The materials and information contained in this blog post have been prepared by Stan Burman for informational purposes only and are not legal advice. Transmission of the information contained in this blog post is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any business relationship between the author and any readers. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking professional counsel.

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