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Rules for returning a rental security deposit

There are many people in California who rent their apartments and homes. These renters generally have leases with their landlords and those are generally signed prior to the tenant moving in and they establish the landlord-tenant relationship. Another aspect that occurs is that the tenant pays a security deposit to the landlord. This is money paid that the landlord must keep for the tenant that can be used by the landlord to fix any damages caused by the tenant during the time they are renting the apartment.

When the tenant leaves there are rules governing how the landlord must handle the security deposit. Within 21 days of the tenant moving out, the landlord must do one of two things. They must either return the entire amount of the security deposit or give the tenant a written letter listing the damages as well as receipts or estimates for the costs of the repairs along with any remaining portion of the security deposit.

The landlord can only deduct for necessary and reasonable damages that are beyond normal wear and tear associated with normal daily living. Also, the landlord can deduct for cleaning costs as well as for any unpaid rent owed by the tenant. If the landlord does not either return the security deposit or provide a written explanation of the damages, the tenant could potentially sue the landlord for the amount of the security deposit. They could also receive up to twice the amount of the security deposit if the landlord did not have a valid reason to keep the deposit and acted in bad faith.

Most renters in California are familiar with paying security deposits at the beginning of a lease. However, many renters do not know about the rules surrounding the landlords' obligations to return the security deposit at the end of the lease. However, there are rules that must be followed and the landlord cannot simply keep the deposit for any costs associated with turning over an apartment for a new tenant. Experienced attorneys understand the rules though and may be a useful resource.

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